Metastatic or suspected metastatic cancer in patients 90 years of age or older: A single-institution, multi-site study

J Geriatr Oncol. 2021 Nov;12(8):1220-1224. doi: 10.1016/j.jgo.2021.03.014. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Background: Metastatic cancer in nonagenarians and those older is rare and understudied. Here we explored whether these patients appear to benefit from antineoplastic therapy and whether outcomes differ based on whether or not untreated patients had a histologic/cytologic confirmation of cancer.

Methods: In this single-institution, multi-site study, we reviewed 10 years of consecutive medical records of patients 90+ years of age with a histologic/cytologic cancer diagnosis and metastatic cancer or, alternatively, a presumed metastatic cancer diagnosis.

Results: Sixty-eight patients are the focus with a median age of 93 years (range: 90, 103 years). Patients fell into 3 groups: 1) no tissue/cytologic cancer diagnosis and no treatment (=23); 2) tissue/cytologic diagnosis but no treatment (n = 21); and 3) cancer treatment rendered (n = 24). The median survival in groups 1,2, and 3 was 5 weeks (95% confidence interval (CI): 2, 11 weeks), 9 weeks (95% CI: 3, 23 weeks), and 60 weeks (95% CI: 38 weeks, not yet reached), respectively. For those patients in group 3 who received cancer therapy, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery were administered in 11 (16%), 6 (9%), and 4 (6%), respectively. Fourteen received other cancer therapy: hormonal therapy (n = 6), targeted therapy (n = 6), and immunotherapy (n = 2). Only one patient experienced an adverse event that required hospitalization.

Conclusions: Although these older patients likely received cancer treatment on a selective basis, such treatment was associated with improved survival and was well-tolerated. However, based on survival outcomes, one might question whether to put patients through a biopsy, if they have limited therapeutic options.

Keywords: 90 year old; Cancer; Nonagenarian; Older.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Nonagenarians*