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Chemotherapy of Non-small Cell Lung Cancer in Elderly Patients

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Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) may be considered typical of advanced age. More than 50% of NSCLC patients are diagnosed over the age of 65 and approximately one-third of all patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are over the age of 70. Elderly patients tolerate chemotherapy poorly as compared to their younger counterparts, because of the progressive reduction of organ function and comorbidities related to age. For this reason, these patients are often not considered eligible for aggressive cisplatin-based chemotherapy, the standard medical treatment of advanced NSCLC. At present, for early stages of the disease there are no indications for adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Combined chemo-radiotherapy in locally advanced disease increases toxicity and seems to determine no survival advantage as compared to the radiation therapy alone. In advanced disease, single agent vinorelbine has proven to be active and well-tolerated, and compared to best supportive care, improves survival and perhaps even the quality of life. Gemcitabine is active and well tolerated as well. Taxanes are in advanced phase of evaluation. A phase III randomized trial showed that polychemotherapy with gemcitabine and vinorelbine does not improve any outcome as compared to single agent chemotherapy with vinorelbine or gemcitabine. In clinical practice, single agent chemotherapy should remain the standard treatment. The two main research-lines to be explored in the near future are the introduction of biological agents in the treatment schemes and the development of specifically designed schedules of cisplatin-based regimens. However, practicing a multidimensional geriatric asessment for individualized treatment choice in NSCLC elderly patients is mandatory.

Keywords: (NSCLC); chemotherapy; non-small cell lung cancer

Document Type: Review Article


Publication date: August 1, 2002

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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