Hospital treats patients based on overall health not age

COLUMBUS, OH. — By 2030, cancer cases in the U.S. are expected to skyrocket by 55 percent according to the American Institute of Cancer Research. Most of those cases will be in older Americans, which has some doctors worried. Assuming most older patients are too frail to tolerate more aggressive treatments, many hospitals put age limits on certain therapies. But as ABC 10’s Sarah Mac shows us, one hospital is changing the way they evaluate patients, by looking at their overall health and level of fitness not just their age.

Fred Cubbison has great affection for his 1965 Mustang. Even though it’s older, it’s in great shape and still has a lot of miles left on it.

When Fred was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma, he was hoping doctors would look at him the same way – although he had concerns about getting chemo.

Fred says, “I was 70 years old at the time, and they said ‘Well, normally we don’t do anybody over 65.'”

But Fred isn’t just anybody over 65. He’s still extremely active – he golfs, chops wood and manages a farm. Unfortunately, when it comes to cancer treatments, many doctors often set age limits for aggressive therapies.

Dr. Ashley Rosko of Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute says, “We know that older patients benefit from chemotherapy. We also know that older adults are under–treated in cancer are.”

So Dr. Ashley Rosko and her colleagues are changing that. At the Ohio State James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, one of the first clinics in the country is now open and dedicated to treating patients based on their overall health and fitness level not their age. In one visit, patients can see up to six specialists to gauge everything from their physical and mental health to their nutrition.

Dr. Rosko, “What we’re doing in the clinic is really to be able to preventatively put a plan in for patients and put this structure together so that patients can do well and minimize the toxicities of their chemotherapy plan.”

Researchers are also studying a protein in the lab called P–16 that may show how healthy you’ve been throughout your life to help doctors determine your treatment. For Fred, that was chemo and a stem cell transplant.

Today, he simply takes a pill for maintenance – all of which many not have been an option anywhere else.

Fred says, “I went through this with flying colors. I was the model student up there on that floor at that time because I really, really did well.”

Information provided by Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.