Adjuvant therapy for rectal cancer in the elderly

Seth M. Cohen, Alfred I. Neugut

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Rectal cancer, like most malignancies, is a disease of older age. By the year 2030, nearly 70% of all cancer patients are expected to be over the age of 65 years. Adjuvant therapy for colorectal cancer has been one of the most important contributions of medical oncology to the health of the population, saving more lives annually than more effective therapy for less common cancers, such as Hodgkin's disease. Nonetheless, population-based studies have shown that less than half of those over the age of 65 years receive the standard adjuvant therapy for rectal cancer. In many instances, there may be legitimate reasons for this, but efforts must be made to overcome any age bias and nihilism in the use of adjuvant therapy in the treatment of rectal cancer in the elderly. Although the elderly have been under-represented in clinical trials, they have been shown to tolerate cancer treatment and derive benefit from the adjuvant therapies. Despite early reports to the contrary, older patients have been shown to tolerate surgical resections for rectal cancer as well as their younger counterparts. Studies have supported the use of combined modality therapy as standard adjuvant care for clinical T3 rectal cancer in the preoperative setting and for patients with T3 and/or N1/N2 disease in the postoperative setting, wtih improved rates of sphincter preservation, recurrence and overall survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-451
Number of pages15
JournalDrugs and Aging
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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