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Fitness in the elderly: how to make decisions regarding acute myeloid leukemia induction

Arati V Rao
Hematology—the Education Program of the American Society of Hematology 2016 December 2, 2016 (1): 339-347
27913500
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a disease of the elderly, but less than half of these patients are offered therapy despite the evidence of better survival with treatment in this patient population. Assessing fit, vulnerable, and frail older adults with AML remains a challenge for the treating oncologist. A majority of AML patients are elderly and often have significant comorbidities, lack of social support, and older caregivers. Performance status (PS), a subjective measure of how a patient will tolerate cancer chemotherapy, has been strongly correlated with mortality in older AML patients. However, a large portion of older adults have poor PS as a result of their underlying AML, and these patients may end up being undertreated. Conversely, some patients with excellent PS unexpectedly end up with excessive toxicity and mortality. The treating physician thus needs a more objective and comprehensive method to differentiate patients along the fit-frail spectrum irrespective of their chronological age. For more than a decade, comprehensive geriatric assessment has been shown to improve routine oncology assessment by adding information about the functional, emotional, cognitive, and social status of older patients with cancer. In addition to the chronological and functional age, there is an attempt to quantify a patient's biological age to aid in better decision making. This chapter attempts to review the clinical challenges of AML treatment in the elderly population and to highlight the current literature and future research required to be able to assess fitness and maximize therapeutic options in this heterogeneous patient population.

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