Dr. Supriya Mohile to Lead National Study on Age-Related Cancer Care

We've all known middle-aged people who seem older because of health problems and 75-year-olds who seem younger because they're very healthy. Scientists want to know if measuring a cancer patient's physiological age rather than chronological age improves communication about chemotherapy and other age-related treatment issues between the physician and patient.

Wilmot Cancer Center at Forefront of Survivorship Research Supriya Mohile, M.D., M.S., director of the Specialized Oncology Care and Research for the Elderly (SOCARE) clinic at the Wilmot Cancer Center, will be the principal investigator to study this topic over the next three years with several collaborators locally and across the country– thanks to a $2 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

Although age is the single most important risk factor for cancer and older people comprise a fast-growing segment of the general population–ironically no consensus exists among oncologists or geriatricians about the best ways to care for older people when they get cancer. Clinical trials for new cancer therapies traditionally have excluded this group as well, because of co-existing health conditions that naturally develop with aging.

This study will look at the risks of chemotherapy in a new light. Mohile and her colleagues will use a geriatric assessment (GA) survey to identify frailty, memory problems, chronic diseases and other disabilities in patients.

Mohile hopes to recruit 500 people aged 70 and older with advanced cancer within the University of Rochester Community Clinical Oncology Program to participate in the study. Prior to making a decision about chemotherapy, all patients will complete the GA survey. One group will receive a summary of the survey results plus targeted interventions to consider. The other half will receive standard care without provision of the GA survey results.

Wilmot Cancer Center at Forefront of Survivorship Research"I realized long ago that most cancer research did not include elderly patients, so treatments were based on the younger population. I've been very fortunate that my cancer diagnosis and treatment were straightforward and that I've had no recurrence. The support I received from a local breast cancer organization when I was first diagnosed grew my interest in patient advocacy. When the opportunity arose to be involved in geriatric oncology research, it just seemed like a natural fit." – Beverly Canin, patient advocate

In both groups, when patients and physicians discuss treatment options, researchers will audio-record the visit to measure the number of concerns brought up by patients and their families, and how the physician responds. In addition, researchers will analyze the patient's quality of life and satisfaction with cancer care, and compare responses in the two groups.

Mohile is collaborating with a diverse group of oncologists and cancer researchers. Most importantly, collaboration with patient and other stakeholders strengthened the PCORI award application, Mohile said. For example, Mohile sought input on every aspect of the study from a breast cancer survivor and widely recognized patient advocate. A Hudson Valley-area resident, Beverly Canin brings twelve years of experience as a patient advocate working in support of cancer research and education at the local, state and national levels. She will lead an advisory board of older patients with cancer, caregivers and patient advocates for Mohile's research project.

Dialogue Summer 2013

Click here to download the print version of Dialogue