Background: Elderly patients (65 years and over) develop often, sometimes predominantly , esophageal, gastro esophageal junction, gastric and pancreatic cancer (gastrointestinal non colorectal cancer). Most clinical trials exclude elderly patients from accrual considering aging a potential risk factor. In fact an elderly patient can develop greater toxicity than a younger patient from oncologic treatments (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, target therapies) due to a worse function of vital organs.
Methods: We analyzed the current scientific literature, searching articles since 1990, about gastrointestinal non colorectal cancer in elderly patients, to establish if they need a specific management, different from younger patients.
Results: Data from analyzed studies, both gastro esophageal and pancreatic cancer, are contradictory. In some reports elderly patients don’t seem to bring greater toxicity than younger. Other trials consider that dose-adjustment to renal function is need in elderly patients, but these trials are very few. Other trials may include several biases such as accrual of “only fit” elderly patients.
Conclusions: It is very important in elderly patients with higher risk of toxicity, to distinguish the aim of cancer treatment: is it curative or palliative? Furthermore, in this type of patients the most important target is probably maintaining the quality of life especially in gastric and pancreatic cancer that often started as advanced disease. For these valuation chronological age alone is not sufficient. Another very important factor in elderly cancer patients is the geriatric assessment including not only age but also functional, social and mental status.