Martine Extermann, MD, PhD | Authors

Larger Questions About Chemotherapy in Older Patients

January 15, 2010

Drs. Gillison and Chatta present an up-to-date review of the systemic treatments available to elderly patients with the most common types of cancer. The only point I might add in the context of their review is about recently reported, promising data on targeted therapies in acute leukemia patients. A large proportion of older patients have acute lymphocytic leukemia positive for a t(9;22) translocation (Philadelphia chromosome–positive ALL).

Designing Cancer Trials to Accommodate Older Patients

March 01, 2007

The risk of cancer increases with age, and as the US population rapidly ages, the number of older adults seeking treatment for cancer is also increasing dramatically. However, this growing population of older adults has been underrepresented in clinical trials that set the standards for oncology care. In addition, most clinical trials conducted to date have not addressed the problems that accompany aging, including reduced physiologic reserve, changes in drug pharmacokinetics, and the impact of comorbid medical conditions and polypharmacy on treatment tolerance. As a result, there are variations in treatment patterns between older and younger adults and few evidence-based guidelines accounting for the changes in physiology or pharmacokinetics that occur with aging. This article examines the demographics of cancer and aging, the barriers to enrollment of older adults on clinical trials, and approaches for future trials to address the needs of the older patient.

Treating Advanced Breast Cancer in the Older Woman

October 01, 2006

As half of all breast cancers occur in patients beyond the age of 65 and a quarter beyond the age of 75, a significant number of patients with metastatic breast cancer are elderly. New hormonal therapies, such as aromatase inhibitors, appear to have favorably improved the survival of these patients. Side effects such as osteoporosis or cognitive issues appear manageable. Information specific to elderly patients has recently emerged in the field of chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. This article reviews data on anthracyclines, taxanes, capecitabine (Xeloda), gemcitabine (Gemzar), trastuzumab (Herceptin), and bevacizumab (Avastin). For most patients in this setting, sequential single-agent chemotherapy appears at this time to be the preferred course of treatment.

Commentary (Extermann): Management of Colorectal Cancer in Older Patients

June 01, 2006

An increasing body of evidence suggests that geriatric patients can benefit from and tolerate standard chemotherapy similarly to younger patients in the settings of both early- and advanced-stage colorectal cancer. Assessment of this unique population requires more comprehensive evaluation in addition to routine history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Specific considerations of their physiologic functional changes will help physicians better manage these patients. Ongoing studies are now designed to better understand the decision-making process, safety profile, and efficacy of various treatment regimens in geriatric patients.

Commentary (Extermann): Geriatric Syndromes and Assessment in Older Cancer Patients

December 01, 2001

Older individuals are at risk for adverse events in all settings where cancer is treated. Common geriatric syndromes can complicate cancer therapy, and thus, increase patient morbidity and the costs of care. Furthermore,

Pharmacology of Antineoplastic Agents in Older Cancer Patients

December 01, 2000

People over the age of 65 are a fast-growing segment of the US population, and with the incidence of cancer increasing with age, the challenges of treating older cancer patients are also on the rise. Drs. Lichtman and Skirvin present a comprehensive review of the antineoplastic agents used in elderly cancer patients. They highlight the important factors of chemotherapy pharmacology in elderly cancer patients, with emphasis on the impact of physiologic changes-especially renal clearance-in dosing and toxicity. In addition, descriptions of significant toxicities are provided. The following additional issues should be considered.