"But this finding doesn't override what doctors are fearful about," Kahn cautioned. "We don't know whether we can generalize our results to all older people, because we still have limited information," she explained.
"For example, maybe all older people on chemotherapy will do as well as the younger patients," Kahn said. "Or maybe the older ones who got it in our study were selected out by their doctors as the ones most likely to do best. We don't know yet. We need more data."
Meanwhile, Dr. Frank A. Sinicrope, a professor of medicine and oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., suggests that age is just one of many variables to consider when deciding which treatment to offer cancer patients.
"I think it's important to say that there's no data presented in this study [on] recurrence or survival among any of the patients," he noted. "So, there's no comment the researchers can provide here on what the benefit of chemotherapy actually is among either older or younger patients," Sinicrope said.
"But the overriding message here is that we need to move beyond making treatment decisions purely on the basis of age. We need to think more about the performance status of the patient and their overall medical condition, and consider offering these patients treatment if appropriate," Sinicrope said. "And, yes, certainly I think more research and studies specifically looking at elderly populations would be beneficial to have."
For more on colorectal cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.
SOURCES: Katherine L. Kahn, M.D., professor, medicine, division of general internal medicine and health services research, department of
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