Challenges in the Management of Older Patients With Colon Cancer

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Most patients with colon cancer are older than 65 years. Their treatment poses multiple challenges, because they may have age-related comorbidities, polypharmacy, and physical or physiologic changes associated with older age. These challenges include limited data on the ability to predict tolerance to anticancer therapy and the appropriate use of treatment modalities in the setting of comorbidity and concurrent frailty. The low number of older patients enrolled in large clinical trials results in a paucity of evidence to guide oncologists in the appropriate management of this population. In early-stage disease, clinical dilemmas arise regarding the ability of older patients to undergo successful curative surgical procedures and the risk/benefit ratio of adjuvant chemotherapy. The management of metastatic disease raises questions regarding the clinical benefit of various anticancer therapies and the role of combination therapy with possible increased toxicity in the noncurative setting. Overall, the available evidence shows that fit older patients are able to tolerate treatment and derive similar clinical benefits to younger patients. Limited data are available to guide treatment for less-fit, more-vulnerable older patients. This lack of data leads to variations in treatment patterns in older adults, making them less likely to receive standard therapies. This review provides an overview of the available data regarding the management of older adults with colon cancer in the adjuvant and metastatic settings.

Correspondence: Efrat Dotan, MD, 333 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19111. E-mail: Efrat.Dotan@fccc.edu

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