Purpose of review: Using chemotherapy in elderly nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients is often challenging given concerns of treatment-related toxicity. However, data have demonstrated that chemotherapy can lead to improved survival in this age group. In this review, we summarize existing data and discuss the role of chemotherapy in elderly patients with localized, locally advanced, and metastatic NSCLC. Recent findings: Clear evidence-based guidelines for chemotherapy management in elderly patients is lacking given the limited prospective data available. However, there are more clinical trials investigating optimal chemotherapy agents and dosing schedules specific to the elderly. Comprehensive geriatric assessment-directed interventions are also being prospectively investigated to improve treatment selection for elderly patients. Summary: Chronological age should not be a limiting factor for chemotherapy use in elderly NSCLC patients. Several studies have demonstrated similar survival benefits than in younger patients when chemotherapy is given as adjuvant treatment for localized disease; part of definitive treatment with radiation in locally advanced disease; and palliative treatment for advanced NSCLC, however, at the cost of greater toxicity. Tolerability of chemotherapy in this heterogeneous group can be difficult to predict. Therefore, therapeutic decisions should be individualized based on performance status. Comprehensive geriatric assessment should be used to supplement performance status measures to minimize both under and overtreatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-343
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • advanced disease
  • chemotherapy
  • elderly
  • nonsmall cell lung cancer
  • treatment


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