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Elderly Lung Cancer Patients Can Gain From Two-Drug Chemo: Study
Date:8/9/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Countering conventional wisdom, researchers in France say that elderly lung cancer patients can gain significant benefit from an aggressive, double-barreled chemotherapy that's often used in younger patients.

The finding raises questions about standard public health recommendations, such as those issued the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2004, which advised physicians not to expose elderly patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to the undesirable side effects of combination chemotherapy.

Instead, older patients have typically been offered less harsh -- but also less effective -- chemotherapies containing a single agent. That's because, until now, it's been assumed that the benefits to elderly patients of dual-chemo ("doublet") regimens simply weren't worth their onerous side effects and risks.

But, "our study demonstrates clearly that [the doublet] scheme is feasible in elderly patients," study author Dr. Elisabeth Quoix, from the department of chest diseases at Hopitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg at the University of Strasbourg. She noted that survival rates among elderly patients, even among those over the age of 80, appeared comparable to those of younger patients on the dual-drug regimen.

The findings are reported online Aug. 9 in The Lancet.

As life expectancy increases, so does the risk for lung cancer, the leading cancer killer worldwide. As a result, studies show that lung cancer rates have been ramping up among the elderly, with patients in the developed world now averaging between 63 and 70 years of age at diagnosis.

According to Quoix, that means that "elderly patients represent around 50 percent of all patients with lung cancer." She also believes that "there has been for quite a long time such a nihilism toward this disease, especially for elderly patients, that unfortunately most of t
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