Oncogeriatrics - Danièle Avenin, md

My name is Danièle Avenin. I am an oncologist at Tenon Hospital, specializing in oncogeriatrics in the department of oncology.

What is oncogeriatrics?

Oncogeriatrics at Tenon Hospital consists of a multi-disciplinary group that brings together geriatricians, oncologists, radiotherapists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, psychologists, and nurses, all of whom are interested in a specific area of oncology: the treatment of elderly patients stricken with cancer.

This discipline is crucial because the aging population is growing in all developed countries, and in particular in Europe, including France.

Given that the prevalence of cancer increases with age, and that populations continue to age at a rapid rate, treating elderly patients diagnosed with cancer is gradually becoming a public health issue.

What are the specific challenges in treating the elderly?

The aging of the older population leads in particular to a decrease in tolerance for stress. Also, therapies often are believed to be too toxic, and so, in most cases, either elderly patients are not treated, or they receive less intensive and less effective treatments.

Studies have shown, moreover, that the elderly were often not ready to sacrifice their quality of life for a benefit in survival. And so it is extremely important to take the vulnerability of this population into account in the treatment of their cancer.

Does the research in this area enable improvements in our understanding and in treatments for the elderly?

Research can improve our understanding of how we must take care of elderly patients and treat them through studies that will enable us to demonstrate, for instance, that the elderly are not overly weak and that they can receive traditional therapies. With the objective of encouraging exchanges between biomolecular researchers and clinical researchers, APREC is attempting to improve translational research and develop a better approach to the treatment of elderly patients diagnosed with cancer.

And to conclude I’d like to point out that 50% of deaths from cancer occur after the age of 70.

Thus it is essential to finance research in oncogeriatrics to support the activities of those working in this field.