Study objective: To determine the appropriate chemotherapy regimen for inoperable, chemotherapy-naïve non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in elderly patients.
Setting: National teaching hospital in Taiwan.
Design: We retrospectively analyzed data from our clinical trials for a total of 270 patients and compared them with the data from other studies, addressing the elderly in particular or providing subgroup information on age, to analyze the feasibility of current chemotherapy options for elderly patients and possible alternative approaches.
Results: The response rates and median survival times of fit elderly patients with NSCLC who were receiving appropriate new anticancer drugs for chemotherapy, including single-agent or combination treatment, were no worse than those of younger patients, and the response rates may have been even higher in the elderly patients, while survival time was slightly poorer in this group. The risk of adverse side effects, such as myelosuppression and peripheral neuropathy, may be higher in elderly patients, who also visit the hospital more frequently. Some items on the lung cancer symptom scale for elderly patients were rated as being slightly worse than those for younger patients after chemotherapy.
Conclusion: Advanced age alone should not preclude chemotherapy. New single-agent drugs, and non-platinum-based or platinum-based doublets, can all be considered as appropriate treatment for selected fit elderly patients with advanced NSCLC.