Management of advanced colorectal cancer in older patients
Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols
Many elderly individuals have substantial life expectancy, even in the setting of significant illness. There is evidence to indicate that elderly individuals derive as much survival benefit as younger patients from standard chemotherapy approaches in advanced colorectal cancer. Effective treatments should not be withheld from older patients on the basis of age alone. Treatment decisions should be based on functional status, presence of comorbidities, and consideration of drug-specific toxicities that can be exacerbated in older individuals due to decreased functional reserve. Infusional and weekly fluorouracil (5-FU) regimens are better tolerated than bolus and monthly regimens. Oral capecitabine (Xeloda) reduces the frequency of a number of toxicities compared with bolus 5-FU, including stomatitis, a particularly debilitating toxicity in many elderly patients. The effectiveness and tolerability of oxaliplatin and irinotecan (Camptosar) appear to be similar in older and younger patients. Older patients can also receive bevacizumab (Avastin), although caution is warranted in those with cardiovascular disease. Overall survival in metastatic colorectal cancer improves with the availability of multiple effective chemotherapeutic agents. The full range of effective therapies in advanced colorectal cancer should be extended to elderly patients.