Narrative review of immunotherapy and radiation therapy in elderly patients

Brittney Chau, Jonnby LaGuardia, Caressa Hui, Linda Ye, Yan Xing, Erminia Massarelli, Arya Amini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Cancer is primarily a disease of the elderly, but there is a disproportionate lack of data from clinical trials in this population. Oncologists tend to underdiagnose and undertreat geriatric patients with cancer, leading to poor survival outcomes. New therapies or therapeutic combinations such as immunotherapy and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) can be used in the elderly for better tumor control and survival, with fewer toxicities. The aim of this review is to describe the synergistic effects of immunotherapy and radiation therapy (RT) and to discuss the use of these therapies concurrently and/or sequentially in the elderly. To gain a fuller picture of their elderly patient's health, physicians may also consider incorporating a comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA) to evaluate their functional capacity, cognition, physical and mental health, and social supports which we will discuss in this review. It is recommended that oncologists use geriatric assessments in their everyday practice to have better insight on their complex elderly patients, therefore providing them a higher quality of care. They should also be incorporated in clinical trials as a way to assess and include more elderly patients in the study. Ultimately, the elderly deserve to be treated with more than their chronological age in mind, and new combination therapies and use of a geriatric assessment can help achieve that.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2620-2631
Number of pages12
JournalTranslational Cancer Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Elderly
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs)
  • Immunotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Older adults
  • Radiation therapy (RT)
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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