About 70% of colorectal cancers (CRC) develop in patients over the age of 65.
Treatment options in these elderly patients include the use of single-agent or combination-based chemotherapies. However, elderly patients are particularly vulnerable to side effects, especially when drugs are used in combination, according to researchers.
Medicare data were used to determine what types of chemotherapy, if any, these patients received. Patients who received chemotherapy tended to be younger, had more advanced cancers, and were more likely to be married compared to patients who did not get chemotherapy.
All patients, whether receiving chemotherapy or not, had a high incidence of symptoms and laboratory test abnormalities, which increased after patients began receiving chemotherapy. Compared to patients on fluorouracil alone, those on an oxaliplatin-based regimen had higher rates of adverse events, including nausea and neuropathy.
Those 70 years of age and older were more likely to experience certain adverse events such as infection, anemia, delirium, and heart disease.
For details, see Cen et al. (2012). Comparison of toxicity profiles of fluorouracil versus oxaliplatin regimens in a large population-based cohort of elderly patients with colorectal cancer. Annals of Oncology, 23(6), 1503-1511. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdr449