Expanding Cancer and Aging Clinic Caters to Unique Needs of Older Adults

aging clinic

As the boomer generation ages, the number of older adults with blood cancers has grown. For many of these patients, the best chance for a “cure” involves intensive treatments traditionally thought to be too harsh for people over age 65.

But research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) suggests that biologic age—not literal calendar years—determines a person’s fitness for treatment.

“There are many factors that influence the process of aging. Determining how functional a person really is involves a robust assessment of global health that spans everything from physical and mental health to other medical conditions and social support at home.

“All of these factors influence a person’s health and should be considered when determining if chronologically ‘older’ patients can tolerate chemotherapy or stem cell transplant as part of their treatment,” says Ashley Rosko, MD, a hematologist and researcher at the OSUCCC – James. “A 70-year-old who has exercised, never smoked and has no other health conditions could be as ‘fit’ as a 55-year-old who has led a less-healthful life.”

Rosko and her colleagues saw an unmet need in supporting older adults facing cancer and launched a geriatric oncology clinic tailored to blood cancer patients in February 2016. The clinic features innovative research on aging paired with subspecialty evaluations by a pharmacist, case manager, nutritionist, physical therapist and audiologist, all in one visit.

In its first two years, this clinical model flourished, providing comprehensive assessments, treatment and follow-up to more than 150 patients. Now the OSUCCC – James has expanded this multidisciplinary care model to include patients with solid tumors (medical oncology). The Cancer and Aging Resiliency (CARE) Clinic, as it is now called, will begin accepting community referrals in fall 2018. Rosko will continue to lead the hematology clinic, while Carolyn Presley, MD, MHS, will lead the oncology clinic.

Translational Research

The comprehensive program includes a strong translational research effort led by Christin Burd, PhD. Her team studies the process of aging and how it impacts a person’s ability to tolerate cancer treatments. The goal is to define objective markers of biologic age that could be measured through a simple blood test and then integrated into the patient-assessment process to better inform treatment decisions. In addition, the cancer specialists providing treatment to patients are pursuing new clinical trials. One example is a Pelotonia-funded study led by Presley to evaluate the aging immune system, treatment response and functional decline among older adults with lung cancer.

The research study seeks to determine which types of lung cancer treatment result in worsening disability and functional decline, and to identify tests that can predict which older adults will develop worsening disability and functional decline.

“This knowledge could help physicians and patients make more informed choices about treatment options and design interventions to prevent or delay functional decline so patients can thrive and maintain independent living as long as possible,” says Presley.

More Information

The CARE clinic is offered every Friday on the fifth floor of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, 460 W. 10th Ave., in Columbus, Ohio. To schedule an appointment or learn more, call 1-800-293-5066.