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Age is not a key factor in cancer survival, but clinical trials exclude older patients
Date:11/6/2008

scores as well as various clinical tests, was subjected to a detailed analysis.

This showed that there were four independent factors that played a significant role in predicting whether a patient survived. These were:

Metastatic dissemination, which measures how widely the cancer has spread. The level of functional impairment the patient experienced, as measured by the Karnofsky Perfomance Status Scale. The patient's physical quality of life, as measured by the eight criteria on the Short Form 36 questionnaire. Serum albumin levels, a major protein that is produced in the liver and is essential for maintaining pressure in the vascular system.

Patients had better survival rates if they had a good physical quality of life and fewer problems with functional impairment. High serum albumin levels were also important, as were a lack of metastatic dissemination.

"The patient's age was not an independent factor that predicted how likely they were to survive cancer" stresses Dr Domingo. "Because of this, age, in itself, should not be used to limit diagnostic or therapeutic decisions."

The number of older cancer patients is rising as the worldwide population ages. But not enough it being done to meet their needs, argue the authors.

"Consciously or unconsciously, age often becomes a decisive element when diagnostic or therapeutic strategies are designed" says Dr Domingo.

"Older people tend to have more complex health needs, such as other illnesses, and that is one of the reasons that has frequently been put forward for not treating their cancers aggressively. However our study found that comorbidity, like age, was much less significant than factors like physical quality of life.

"Other reasons given include the limited long-term benefits, compared with younger patients, and the lack of financial, logistical and social support."

The authors hope that their research will reduce the
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Contact: Annette Whibley
wizard.media@virgin.net
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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