Cancer treatment has no age limit

A patient's age isn't a limiting factor for combined radiotherapy and &to=http:// ' target=_blank>chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer, says a study in the June 1 issue of the journal Cancer.

The study concluded that elderly lung cancer patients treated with this combination therapy have no higher risk of death than younger patients. Two and five-year survival rates and disease progression rates for patients 70 and older were not significantly different than those for patients younger than 70.

At five years, 17 percent of patients 70 older were still alive, compared to 22 percent of younger patients. Both age groups had similar levels of overall toxicity but specific and moderate toxicities were more common in the elderly patients.

The study, led by Dr. Steven E. Schild of the MayoClinic, found that six percent of the elderly patients suffered severe pneumonia requiring ventilation or continuous oxygen, compared to none of the younger patients, informs the Forbes.

Schild and colleagues evaluated the effects of age on treatment tolerance, disease control, and survival in 263 patients with limited-stage small-cell lung cancer who participated in a &to=http:// ' target=_blank>clinical trial. The treatment included the drugs etoposide and cisplatin, which was combined with radiotherapy that was given once or twice daily. In all, 209 patients were younger than 70 years of age and 54 were older.

"In spite of the increase in specific toxicities that accompanied combined-modality therapy in elderly patients," Schild said, "they had disease control and survival rates similar to those of younger patients."

At two years, 48 percent of the younger patients and 33 percent of the older patients were still alive. At five years, 22 percent of the younger patients and 17 percent of the older patients were still alive.

Although the overall rates of treatment side effects were similar between the two age groups, severe pneumonitis -- marked by breathing difficulty and a severe, dry cough -- was seen in 6 percent of the older patients but in none of the younger group, informs Reuters.

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