A study published in a recent issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics found that elderly patients with limited small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) can tolerate radiation and should not be denied potentially curative combined treatment.
A previous study had suggested that chemotherapy alone is appropriate treatment for elderly patients because the risks of adding radiation therapy could outweigh the survival benefits in these patients, said Harry Quon, MD, clinical research fellow at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada. The rationale for our study was to determine if this is true, he said.
Treatment Completion Rates and Toxicities Similar in Old vs Younger Patients
For the study, records of 608 patients from The National Cancer Institute of Canada data were reviewed. All patients included in the study had undergone similar chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments. The proportion of patients 70 years of age and older who completed the radiation treatments was similar to that of those under age 70 years, said Dr. Quon. In addition, the incidence of toxicities (such as irritation of the esophagus, resulting in painful swallowing) was similar in the two age groups.
Almost 50% of all lung cancers occur in people over the age of 65 years. Among patients with SCLC, 25% are older than 70 years, said Dr. Quon. With the aging of our population, we can expect to see a marked increase in the number of elderly patients with lung cancer, he said. The results of this study indicate that, regardless of age, patients who are eligible to receive the combined therapy should receive it. This is an important conclusion, as combined therapy has been shown to increase the survival of patients with this disease, he said.