Members of Wilmot Cancer Institute's Geriatric Oncology team shared their findings and expertise at the recent International Society of Geriatric Oncology annual conference.
Although more than half of cancers are diagnosed in adults age 65 and older, oncologists are still learning how best to individualize therapies for older adults. Wilmot's team focuses on improving the treatment decision-making and quality of life for this population and their caregivers.
"At Wilmot Cancer Institute, we have one of the few geriatric oncology clinical and research programs in the country," says Supriya Mohile, M.D., M.S., associate professor of Hematology/Oncology who leads Wilmot's Geriatric Oncology team. "In addition to having four physicians dually certified in geriatrics and oncology, we have a robust team including researchers and trainees in geriatric oncology, nursing, psychiatry, and palliative care. It was wonderful for our team to have our research acknowledged and highlighted at this international meeting of experts in geriatric oncology."
Mohile presented findings from two studies using a geriatric assessment tool. This tool evaluates a variety of factors such as health and medical conditions, physical ability, issues with memory or falling, cancer symptoms, medications that could affect chemotherapy and a patient's home care situation. It is used to inform the oncology team as they develop the patient's care plans.
In one study, Mohile looked at whether impairments such as physical performance and cognition recorded using the geriatric assessment were associated with anxiety and depression in caregivers. Analyzing data from 349 pairs of patients age 70 and older and their caregivers, Mohile found that patient distress was associated with caregiver anxiety, and the patient's functional and nutritional status were associated with caregiver depression.
In a second study of data from 342 older adults with advanced cancers, Mohile, presenting on behalf of Marie Flannery, PhD, examined the variability in their reported quality of life. She focused on the role of symptom severity, and she found that both geriatric impairments and symptom burden had significant influence on the patients' quality of life.