The best treatment for elderly patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is still debated. To guide clinical management of these patients and suggest the priorities for clinical research in this field, an International Expert Panel met in Naples, Italy, on April 19 to 20, 2004. Results and conclusions based on a review of evidence available in the literature to date are presented in this article. A comprehensive geriatric assessment is recommended to better define prognosis and to predict tolerance to treatment. In the first randomized study dedicated to elderly NSCLC patients, single-agent vinorelbine showed superiority over supportive care alone, both in terms of survival and quality of life. In a large randomized trial, gemcitabine plus vinorelbine failed to show any advantage over either agent alone. Subset analyses suggest that the efficacy of platinum-based combination chemotherapy is similar in fit older and younger patients, with an acceptable increase in toxicity for elderly patients. These data should be interpreted cautiously because retrospective subgroup analyses are encumbered by selection bias; hence, randomized trials dedicated to platinum-based chemotherapy for nonselected elderly patients are warranted. Several promising biologic therapies are under investigation; however, with present data, target-based agents as first-line treatment for elderly NSCLC patients are not yet recommended. Clinical research, with trials specifically designed for elderly patients, is mandatory. With the current evidence, single-agent chemotherapy with a third-generation drug (vinorelbine, gemcitabine, a taxane) should be the recommended option for nonselected elderly patients with advanced NSCLC. Platinum-based chemotherapy is a viable option for fit patients with adequate organ function. Best supportive care remains important, in addition to chemotherapy or as the exclusive option for patients who are unsuitable for more aggressive treatment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research