The EORTC, with the support of Armonea, has launched a study which includes translational research in order to improve prognostic tools and assist in making treatment decisions for elderly patients with cancer who live in nursing homes in Belgium within the Armonea network. This prospective observational study, EORTC 1221, is coordinated by the EORTC Cancer in Elderly Task Force.
There is surprisingly limited data available on the diagnosis and care patterns of elderly patients with cancer, and this lack of information can adversely affect clinical decisions as well as the appropriateness of prescribed treatments. EORTC 1221 has been initiated to collect this much needed information and will include patients aged 65 years or older living in nursing homes with either a suspicion or diagnosis of cancer.
Dr. Hans Wildiers of the University Hospitals Leuven, Chair of the EORTC Cancer in the Elderly Task Force, and Coordinator of this study says, “The incidence of cancer is much higher in the elderly, yet the approach towards this frequent disease in older people is an extremely poorly studied area. Elderly patients are underrepresented in cancer clinical trials. Consequently, it is hard to form evidence-based clinical recommendations for elderly patients in everyday clinical practice, and so, for older individuals living in nursing homes, we expect to find a conservative, palliative treatment in the majority of cases. Such treatment might be justified in some cases, but it could also be considered ‘undertreatment’ in others where quality of life could be improved given adequate diagnostic and therapeutic actions.”
Dr. Maryska Janssen Heijnen of the VieCuri Medical Centre in Venlo, The Netherlands, and Coordinator of this study adds, “This prospective observational study seeks to open the discussion on this delicate issue starting with a solid and extensive description of the present situation. We hope that clinical assessment and biomarker analyses could direct those patients that would derive benefit from a diagnostic and therapeutic approach while at the same time spare these actions for those who would not benefit.”
This EORTC study has two principle objectives. One is to report on referral patterns and motives for non-referral to further oncological assessment and treatment of patients in nursing homes with (a suspicion of) a new or progressive cancer event. It will compare baseline evaluation and outcome of these patients with a control group of nursing home residents without cancer, and, in addition, will compare the diagnosis, treatment and survival patterns of these two cohorts of patients. A second principle objective is to improve prognostic tools for survival including biological markers of ageing to assist in making treatment decisions for these elderly patients with cancer.
John Bean, PhD
EORTC, Medical Science Writer