Challenge of cancer in the elderly

ESMO Open. 2016 Apr 12;1(3):e000020. doi: 10.1136/esmoopen-2015-000020. eCollection 2016.


Despite the sustained trend of decreasing overall cancer incidence, the number of elderly patients with cancer will considerably increase in the coming years, as the incidence of cancer is elevated 11-fold after the age of 65 years compared to adults up to 65 years. This soon-to-erupt tsunami of elderly patients with cancer requires adequate treatment, for which guidelines and evidence-based data are still scarce, given the longlasting under-representation of elderly patients with cancer in cancer trials. Older adults present not only with the physiological decreases of organ functions related to age, but also with an individual burden of comorbidities, other impairments and social factors that might impact on their potential for undergoing cancer care. Close collaboration with gerontologists and other health professionals to assess the personal resources and limitations of each person enables providing adequate therapy to elderly patients with cancer. There are promising achievements in each of the requirements listed, but a huge, holistic effort has still to be made.

Keywords: biomarker; cancer; elderly; geriatric assessment; trial design.

Publication types

  • Review