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Lung Cancer Health Center

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Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage IV NSCLC Treatment


Factors influencing treatment


Patients with adenocarcinoma may benefit from pemetrexed,[16] EGFR inhibitors, and bevacizumab.

Age versus comorbidity

Evidence supports that elderly patients with good PS and limited comorbidity may benefit from combination chemotherapy. Age alone should not dictate treatment-related decisions in patients with advanced NSCLC. Elderly patients with a good PS enjoy longer survival and a better quality of life when treated with chemotherapy compared with supportive care alone. Caution should be exercised when extrapolating data for elderly patients (aged 70-79 years) to patients aged 80 years or older because only a very small number of patients aged 80 years or older have been enrolled on clinical trials, and the benefit in this group is uncertain.[17,18]

Evidence (age vs. comorbidity):

  1. Platinum-containing combination chemotherapy regimens provide clinical benefit when compared with supportive care or single-agent therapy; however, such treatment may be contraindicated in some older patients because of the age-related reduction in the functional reserve of many organs and/or comorbid conditions. Approximately two-thirds of patients with NSCLC are aged 65 years or older and approximately 40% are aged 70 years or older.[19] Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data suggest that the percentage of patients aged older than 70 years is closer to 50%.
  2. A review of the SEER Medicare data from 1994 to 1999 found a much lower rate of chemotherapy use than expected for the overall population.[20] It also suggested that elderly patients may have more comorbidities or a higher rate of functional compromise that would make study participation difficult, if not contraindicated, and lack of clinical trial data may influence decisions to treat individual patients with standard chemotherapy.
  3. Single-agent chemotherapy and combination chemotherapy clearly benefit at least some elderly patients. In the Elderly Lung Cancer Vinorelbine Italian Study, 154 patients who were older than 70 years were randomly assigned to vinorelbine or supportive care.[21]
    • Patients who were treated with vinorelbine had a 1-year survival rate of 32%, compared with 14% for those who were treated with supportive care alone. Quality-of-life parameters were also significantly improved in the chemotherapy arm, and toxic effects were acceptable.
  4. A more recent trial from Japan compared single-agent docetaxel with vinorelbine in 180 elderly patients with good PS.[22]
    • Response rates and PFS were significantly better with docetaxel (22% vs. 10%; 5.4 mo vs. 3.1 mo, respectively), whereas median and 1-year survival rates did not reach statistical significance (14.3 mo vs. 9.9 mo; 59% vs. 37%, respectively).
  5. Retrospective data analyzing and comparing younger (age <70 years) patients with older (age ≥70 years) patients who participated in large, randomized trials of doublet combinations have also shown that elderly patients may derive the same survival benefit, although with a higher risk of toxic effects in the bone marrow.[17,18,23,24,25,26]
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