AML Treatment and Seniors

There has been research conducted by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to figure out if age is a factor when treating patients with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML).  According to the main author of the research, Dr. Heidi D. Klepin, M.S., the study was looking into how to better assess the older generation suffering from this “because, functionally, they encompass a broad age spectrum.”  She added that while we know geriatrics in general don’t benefit from aggressive therapies as do the younger ones, it is not the case for all seniors.  Indeed, there are some elderly who actually could benefit from these treatments so just because they have an old “age,” does not mean they should be automatically lumped into the “old” category when it comes to treatment options.  The question thus being asked, Klepin has said, is, “can we individualize the treatment to each patient and get them through their cancer treatment in better shape?”

The new research thus indicates that there needs to be a greater focus on the specific patient, as a way of “quantify[ing] how functional they are across the board to withstand the aggressive treatment.”  For example, some 85-year-olds are extremely sprightly, whereas other 60-year-olds behave and feel very old.  Therefore, the more functional ones will “pass all these assessments with flying colors [and] should [thus] be treated like a 55-year-old” and given those treatment options.  Part of the study involved analyzing whether a bedside geriatric assessment (GA) can be helpful in evaluating “cognitive function, psychological state, physical function and co-morbid disease to identify those patients most vulnerable to the side effects of AML chemotherapy.”

The study was published in the October edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and marks the first time an evaluation can be made on whether it is feasible to use a GA for those patients with AML as a way of providing more specific and better, personalized treatment.