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In 2003, the National Institute of Aging (NIA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), both a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), collaborated on a program to expand the capacity of NCI-designated Cancer Centers to carry out research concentrated on aging and age-related aspects of cancer. This five-year program, Planning and Development (P20) Grants Integrating Aging and Cancer Research, supported formal programs that conducted collaborative research in aging and cancer, as well as the translation of findings into the clinical and population settings.
Under the leadership of George Bosl, medical oncologist and Chair of the Department of Medicine, and oncologist and geriatrician Arti Hurria (now director of the Cancer and Aging Research Program at the City of Hope, CA), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was designated one of eight institutions to receive an NIA-NCI-funded P20 grant. Under the project title, Development of an Aging and Cancer Center at MSKCC, Memorial Sloan-Kettering pursued research in the following high-priority thematic areas:
- Treatment Efficacy and Tolerance
- Psychosocial Issues and Medical Effects
- Patterns of Care
- Biology of Aging and Cancer
Under the P20 grants and other public and private funding mechanisms, researchers at MSKCC and in the 65+ Program have engaged in research activities on the following topics:
- Older adults’ absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs, including response to drugs and radiation
- Tools to assess the quality of life of older cancer patients, ways to reduce caregiver and care-recipient stress, and interventions to prevent or reduce the medical and psychological effects of cancer treatment
- Effects of comorbidity as it relates to treatment, using community-based studies, patient management, and cancer-site-specific studies
- Hereditary risk, genetics, molecular signatures, bench-to-bedside application, translational research, and age-related changes as they contribute to cancer mortality
- Cancer screening and treatment modalities using methods of population-based observational data analysis, clinical decision analysis, and cost-effectiveness analysis.
Research currently underway or under development includes studies of:
- Impact of hormone therapy on the cognitive functioning of older prostate cancer patients
- Novel therapeutic approaches to help patients with distress related to aging and cancer
- Physical and social factors that may contribute to older patients’ overall health during chemotherapy
- Use of telemedicine for patient education and follow-up assessments in the areas of medication adherence, nutrition, and physical and occupational therapy
- Responses to influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations in older adults with and without prostate, lung, or breast cancers
- Chemotherapy decisions and outcomes in older women with operable, newly diagnosed breast cancer.