New cancer therapies will benefit senior citizens in this new decade of the 2020’s. Seniors now living with cancer can look forward to better quality of life based on several medical breakthroughs. Statistics show that 80 percent of cancer diagnoses are in people aged 55 and older, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Over 80 percent of those diagnosed with cancer nationally are 55 years of age or older, according to the American Cancer Society. But thanks to all the advances in cancer care over the last decade, many are living long, full lives despite their diagnoses.
New forms of cancer treatment such as immunotherapy, for example, can extend the lives of seniors. Lives that are quality.
Here is a current list of cutting edge treatments and therapies that seniors can look forward to.
New Cancer Therapies: Revolutionizing Clinical Trials
Overall, only about 3 percent of cancer patients in the United States enroll in a clinical trial. This makes clinical trials even more difficult for researchers.
These numbers are even lower for senior citizens, who are excluded due to pre-existing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and/or high blood pressure. This exclusion is unfortunate as some research studies show that cancer drugs were fast-track approved by the FDA — when seniors were included in the trials.
Indeed, earlier this year, the FDA broadened cancer clinical trial eligibility criteria. Seniors can be included. For example, if a medication being tested is metabolized through the liver, then a senior with mildly impaired kidney function can participate in that trial. This has the potential to be a game changer for older adults.
Also, in this new decade, clinical trials will also likely become more accessible to older adults with mobility issues or other challenges.
Many major cancer centers and drug companies are looking to make it easier on seniors to participate. This includes arranging transportation and housing, and even patients checking in with the center remotely via a telehealth internet connection..
New Cancer Therapies: Liquid Biopsies
A liquid biopsy is a simple and non-invasive alternative to surgical biopsies. It enables doctors to discover a range of information about a tumour through a simple blood test. Just a few traces of the cancer’s DNA in the blood can help doctors provide the best treatments to the patient.
To date, much of the research on liquid biopsies has been in lung, breast and prostate cancers. But it is being extended to other forms of cancer as well.
Another benefit is speed of this test. Indeed, since this procedure only requires 5 millilitres of blood, it’s faster and easier to tolerate than a surgical biopsy. This is especially important to a senior citizen. The blood sample is then processed to get 2 millilitres of plasma which can be analysed for tumour DNA.
Moreover, the biggest benefit lies is that liquid biopsies can detect disease progression long before it triggers clinical symptoms or appears on imaging scans. y then it could be too late to help the patient.
Most cancers have multiple genetic mutations and they may not have the same ones in all parts of the cancer. The tissue samples removed for biopsy may not show all mutations whereas liquid biopsies offer an improved chance of detecting these genetic changes.
Right now, liquid biopsies are used to screen for early-stage cancer in people with high risk of disease, such as a family history of a certain cancer. Or they’re used as a pre-screening technique, followed by an MRI. to
Chemotherapy at this time is the major option to treat most advanced cancers. While they destroy cancer cells, they also destroy healthy cells — a catch 22 that comes with toxic side effects.
Senior citizens are particularly susceptible to these complications, especially if they already suffer from anemia and poor kidney function. As a result, many doctors refuse to treat seniors.
During this decade, however, many older cancer patients will benefit from the rise in targeted therapies. These therapies target specific genes and proteins in cancer cells — with minimal to no side effects. The healthy cells remain intact and help the patient recover.
Sometimes, cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy entirely, just by this targeting of specific cancer cells.