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Older Age Dampens Response to Radiation Therapy (Reuters) Old age may limit the response to radiation therapy in patients with a certain type of brain cancer, suggesting that additional therapies should be investigated for older patients, according to researchers. - Dec 03 6:10 PM ET


Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)



Website: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011203/hl/radiation_1.html

Posted on: 12/04/2001

Older Age Dampens Response to Radiation Therapy

By Emma Hitt, PhD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Old age may limit the response to radiation therapy in patients with a certain type of brain cancer, suggesting that additional therapies should be investigated for older patients, according to researchers.

Previous studies have found that older patients with a deadly type of brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme typically don't survive as long as younger patients do, but the reason for this difference is unclear.

Based on earlier studies, researchers led by Dr. Fred G. Barker II of Harvard Medical School (news - web sites) in Boston, Massachusetts, guessed that older patients' worse survival might occur because their tumors are more resistant to radiation therapy than those of younger patients.

To test their theory, Barker's team studied the effects of age and other factors on radiation treatment in 223 patients with glioblastoma.

Writing in the December issue of Neurosurgery, the researchers report that the response to radiation was significantly better for younger patients than for older patients. The patients' performance status, indicating good health and functioning, as well as the ability of surgery to completely remove a tumor, also played a role in radiation therapy response. But age appeared to be the most important factor, the investigators found.

A patient's gender had no influence on radiation therapy response.

According to Barker, a difference in the types of mutations in the tumors of younger and older patients could influence their response. "But no one really knows why response to therapy differs based on age," Barker told Reuters Health.

"The findings of this study do not directly suggest the type of therapy that older patients should receive," he added. "All we can conclude is that radiation therapy doesn't cure younger people and it is even less satisfactory for older people, so it makes finding new options even more urgent for these patients."

He suggested that older patients discuss their options with their healthcare provider. One option, Barker said, is for older patients to receive fewer radiation therapy treatments during the standard 6-week course of treatment.

"It is a burden for patients to come back and forth to the hospital every day for 6 weeks, when a their survival may be only 6 months. These options are certainly worth exploring for older patients," he said.

SOURCE: Neurosurgery 2001;49:1288-1298.



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