Evolution of the clinical approach to the elderly patient with cancer

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Since 1983 at the Aviano Cancer Center, Italy, the therapeutic approach to cancers arising in the elderly has represented one of the most important areas of research. From the early nineties, the pioneering efforts of the Aviano research group have significantly contributed to the steadily increasing interest of the medical community among European countries in clinical studies focused on treatment of neoplasms in the aged, eventually leading to the birth and development, within the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), of a working party specifically devoted to neoplasia in the elderly. Similarly, in Italy, a first cooperative Group, the 'Gruppo di Radiotherapia Oncologica Geriatrica' (GROG), was established in the early nineties, to be followed soon afterwards by the foundation of 'Gruppo Italiano di Oncologia Geriatrica' (GIOGer) in 1995. During the last fifteen years, an increasing knowledge on biology, clinical presentation and treatment of cancer in the elderly has been achieved. Concurrently, several innovative therapeutic schemes along with new drugs and biologicals, able to support the optimal chemotherapy delivery in the elderly, have become available leading to a reduced toxicity and a significant improvement in therapeutic index for most antineoplastic agents. Recently, a joint effort of GROG and GIOGer led to the elaboration and publication of a proposal for general guidelines in the treatment of cancer in the elderly. These guidelines summarize the professional experience of oncologists, radiotherapists, geriatricians and psychologists who devoted most of their efforts for ameliorating the treatment of elderly patients affected by cancer. From the joint efforts of these Groups it also stemmed a warm invitation, directed to all public health managers, to allocate appropriate resources to the specific area of cancer treatment in the elderly. In fact, therapeutic results in the elderly may be as equally effective as those achievable in adult patients, provided that more economic resources for supportive therapies are available. GIOGer and GROG would like to make a point towards the public opinion and the Italian Health Organization for rendering them more sensitive to the problem of geriatric oncology, and are ready to make their long-lasting professional experience available to achieve a concerted Italian Health Program able to provide adequate and univocal answers to the elderly subjects affected by cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-72
Number of pages6
JournalRays - International Journal of Radiological Sciences
Issue number2 SUPPL.
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Elderly
  • Treatment
  • Tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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