Lung cancer in the elderly

Cesare Gridelli, Corey Langer, Paolo Maione, Antonio Rossi, Steven E Schild
Journal of Clinical Oncology 2007 May 10, 25 (14): 1898-907

PURPOSE: Elderly patients often have comorbidities and other characteristics that make the selection of treatment daunting.

METHODS: We have reviewed the available evidence in the literature to gauge the results of therapy for elderly lung cancer patients.

RESULTS: The beneficial results achieved with adjuvant chemotherapy in the general population with early non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cannot be automatically extrapolated to the elderly, who are at higher risk of toxicity. Retrospective analyses of combined chemoradiotherapy in locally advanced NSCLC patients suggest equivalent therapeutic benefit for younger and older patients, despite heightened toxicity. There have been no elderly-specific phase III trials for locally advanced NSCLC. For advanced NSCLC, on the basis of evidence-based data, single-agent chemotherapy remains the standard of care for nonselected elderly patients. However, retrospective analyses suggest that the efficacy of platinum-based combination chemotherapy is similar in fit older and younger patients, with increased but acceptable toxicity for elderly patients. In limited-disease small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), sequential chemoradiotherapy is clearly less toxic compared with a standard concurrent approach, but our assessment of treatment is hindered by the absence of prospective elderly-specific trials. Although prophylactic cranial irradiation has emerged as a standard strategy, it should be omitted in patients with cognitive impairment. In extensive SCLC, etoposide in combination with either cisplatin or carboplatin has emerged as standard treatment; hematopoietic support may be necessary.

CONCLUSION: With the exception of advanced NSCLC, prospective elderly-specific studies are lacking. Available data suggest that outcomes in the fit elderly mirror results observed in younger patients, although toxicity is generally worse.

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