Controversies in the Treatment of Elderly Patients With Newly Diagnosed Glioblastoma

Approximately half of all patients with glioblastoma are older than 65 years and nearly one-quarter are older than 70 years, with a rising incidence of this disease in the elderly population. The life expectancy of elderly patients with glioblastoma is significantly shorter than in younger patients. Potential explanations for this abbreviated survival include differences in tumor biology, reduced use of therapies, enhanced toxicity of treatment, or diminished efficacy of available therapies with increasing age. The current standard treatment of newly diagnosed, protocol-eligible, nonelderly patients with glioblastoma is based on the randomized prospective EORTC/NCIC study that included patients aged 18 to 70 years with a performance status of ECOG 0-2. Limited single-institution retrospective series suggest that clinically fit elderly patients may benefit from a similar treatment regimen. However, no randomized trial has been performed in the elderly population using this regimen. Available prospective randomized clinical trials in the elderly population with glioblastoma have shown that radiotherapy is superior to supportive care only, that single-modality hypofractionated radiotherapy (reduced dose and shorter treatment schedule) is an alternative to single-modality standard fractionated radiotherapy, and that single-agent temozolomide is equivalent to radiotherapy alone. This article summarizes published data of current patterns of care in elderly patients and reviews published evidence as it pertains to the benefit of different treatment modalities in elderly patients with glioblastoma. Notwithstanding the above-mentioned randomized trials, the optimal treatment of elderly patients with glioblastoma remains controversial.

Target Audience

This activity has been designated to meet the educational needs of physicians and nurses involved in the management of patients with cancer.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  • Evaluate the potential explanations for abbreviated survival in elderly patients diagnosed with glioblastoma
  • Describe the roles that surgery, radiotherapy, and temozolomide have in the treatment of elderly patients with glioblastoma
Additional information

No commercial support was received for this article.

Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.00 Participation
  • 1.00 Nurse
  • 1.00 Physician
Course opens: 
Course expires: 

Matthias Holdhoff, MD, PhD
Brain Cancer Program
The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
Baltimore, Maryland

Marc C. Chamberlain, MD
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Available Credit

  • 1.00 Participation
  • 1.00 Nurse
  • 1.00 Physician


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