Copyright ©2008 The WJG Press and Baishideng. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Mar 28, 2008; 14(12): 1812-1822
Published online Mar 28, 2008. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.1812
Role of chemotherapy and novel biological agents in the treatment of elderly patients with colorectal cancer
Gerardo Rosati, Domenico Bilancia
Gerardo Rosati, Domenico Bilancia, Medical Oncology Unit, S. Carlo Hospital, Potenza 85100, Italy
Author contributions: Rosati G and Bilancia D contributed equally to this work.
Correspondence to: Gerardo Rosati, Medical Oncology Unit, S. Carlo Hospital, Via P. Petrone 1, Potenza 85100, Italy.
Telephone: +39-971-612273
Fax: +39-971-613000
Received: November 9, 2007
Revised: December 15, 2008
Published online: March 28, 2008

Patients older than 65 years are the fastest growing segment of the cancer population. It is estimated that within 20 years over 75% of cases and 85% of deaths from colorectal cancer (CRC) will be in this setting. Concerns about cancer treatment in the elderly relate to comorbidities, which increase proportionally with age, physiological changes associated with aging which may influence drug metabolism and toxicity, and diminishing life expectancy, which particularly impacts decisions surrounding the benefits of adjuvant therapies. Over the last 10 years, significant improvements in the treatment of advanced CRC with combination therapy have been made. The randomized trials which have defined these improvements did not exclude elderly patients. However, the median age of patients in these trials has generally been approximately 60 years. Thus, it appears that some degree of selection is involved with younger and presumably fitter patients being the subjects in most of the pivotal trials. The availability of new molecularly targeted agents and newly improved existing agents has expanded the range of treatment options available. This variety gives greater flexibility in dealing with different subsets of patients, such as the elderly. However, some fit elderly patients seem to tolerate combination therapy reasonably well, while studies on unfit elderly subjects are needed.

Keywords: Bevacizumab, Chemotherapy, Cetuximab, Colorectal cancer, Elderly patients