The impact of biological age on breast cancer

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Published: 20 Dec 2013
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Dr Alistair Ring - Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK

Dr Ring talks to ecancertv at SABCS 2013. The prognosis of a woman with early breast cancer is dependent on both tumour and patient characteristics. Tumour-related prognostic factors, such as stage, grade, and biomarker expression are well-described in the breast cancer literature and remain the focus of considerable ongoing research efforts. However patient-related factors which may influence risks of death from competing causes of mortality or tolerance of adjuvant therapies receive less attention. Risks of death from other causes and likely tolerance of treatment are particularly important considerations in the management of the increasing number of older women who are now presenting with early breast cancer. Chronological age itself may be a useful predictor of these outcomes. However older patients represent a heterogeneous population in terms of co-morbidities, fitness, life expectancy, social situation, cognitive function as well as desire for treatment. Therefore an objective definition of 'biological age' might be a more accurate predictor.

Ongoing studies are evaluating whether more extensive assessments, incorporating more domains of a CGA, such as functional status, cognitive function and nutrition add to the predictive model. Any incorporation of such measures into routine clinical practice will require further validation and confirmation of clinical utility. Nonetheless such tools assessing biological age do offer the promise to improve further on the advances made in personalising adjuvant therapies that pathological and molecular tumour characterisation have already achieved. As such it seems likely that assessment of these factors in order to more objectively take into account the risks of death from competing causes of mortality and likely tolerance of treatment will become core components to informed adjuvant treatment decisions in the future.