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A One-Two Punch for Lung Cancer?

Traditionally, elderly cancer patients have been given less aggressive treatments for cancer due to undesirable side effects; but a recent study done in France at the Hopitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, at the University of Strasbourg seems to negate that need and shows that elderly lung cancer patients can indeed benefit from the combination chemotherapy given to younger patients without the dreaded side effects.

Standard public health recommendations, including those issued by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, advise doctors to not expose their elderly (over 70 years old) diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer to side effects caused by combination chemotherapy.

Because of the recommendation older patients are generally given less harsh chemotherapies which contain a single agent rather then the more aggressive dual agent or doublet chemotherapy routines.

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 also noted that the survival rates of elderly patients, including those over the age of 80, appeared to be comparable to those of younger patients on the dual-drug regimen.

Although researchers did find that the toxic side effects were more common from the doublet routine they also found that 2.5 years of follow up later survival rates were also much higher.

On average those elderly patients who were place on the doublet therapy survived more then 10 months on average compared to a 6 month survival rate for those placed on the singlet. And nearly 45% of the elderly placed in the doublet group survived for one year or more compared to 25% from the singlet therapy group.

"This strongly supports doublet chemotherapy in carefully selected older individuals with NSCLC," Reckamp said. However, "the results must be balanced by a look at the increased toxicities and deaths in the combination arm. We are still in need of addition studies that evaluate older individuals with NSCLC and perform an assessment so that we might predict those who may have greater benefit or who might be at greater risk for toxicity."

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