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Individualized chemotherapy for elderly patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer

Gridelli, Cesare MD; Maione, Paolo MD; Barletta, Emiddio MD

Lung and mediastinum

Approximately one third of all patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are over the age of seventy. Elderly patients tolerate chemotherapy poorly because of impaired organ function and comorbidities. For this reason, these patients are often not considered eligible for aggressive cisplatin-based chemotherapy. A multidimensional geriatric evaluation is important to plan appropriate treatments. At present, there are no indications for adjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Combined chemoradiotherapy in locally advanced disease increases toxicity and seems determine no survival advantage as compared with radiation therapy alone. In advanced disease, single-agent vinorelbine proves to be active and well-tolerated, and compared with best supportive care, improves survival and perhaps quality of life. Gemcitabine is active and also well tolerated. Taxanes are in advanced phase of evaluation. A phase III randomized trial showed that polychemotherapy with gemcitabine and vinorelbine does not improve any outcome as compared with single-agent chemotherapy with vinorelbine or gemcitabine. In clinical practice, single-agent chemotherapy should remain the standard treatment. The choice of the drug should be based on the toxicity profile of each drug and type of comorbid conditions. In the near future, new therapeutic strategies and biologic agents could improve present results.

Division of Medical Oncology B, National Cancer Institute, Naples, Italy.

Correspondence to Cesare Gridelli, Division of Medical Oncology B, S.G. Moscati Hospital, via circumvallazione, 80040 Avellino, Italy; e-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.