“Locally-advanced NSCLC” is a term generally applied to lung cancers with tumors that have either grown into major structures (such as vertebrae or spine bones, the central airways, or involve the main blood vessels supplying the lung or central chest) or those cancers that have spread to lymph nodes in the central chest (the mediastinum). In the case of many of these cancers, removing them with surgery is not possible, but treatment with the combination of chemotherapy and radiation given at the same time may be used with the goal of curing the cancer.
Among the many challenges in clinical oncology is the fact that a very significant proportion of our patients are quite a bit more debilitated than the vast majority of patients in clinical trials that test our anti-cancer therapies. Approximately a third of the patients with advanced NSCLC have what would be considered a poor performance status (PS) of 2 or 3 (0 to 5 scale, 0 being asymptomatic, and 5 being dead), but they are extremely under-represented on our clinical trials.
The average age at which lung cancer is diagnosed in the US is 71. Would it be fair to say that at least half of those who are diagnosed with lung cancer are elderly? How do we define “old”? How does age impact the effect of chemotherapy?