The value of population-based databases to evaluate long-term patient outcomes: A multicentric research project in older patients with cancer

BJMO - volume 15, issue 7, november 2021

V. Depoorter MSc, K. Vanschoenbeek PhD, C. Kenis PhD, H. De Schutter MD, PhD, L. Decoster MD, PhD, H. Wildiers MD, PhD, F. Verdoodt PhD


The use of population-based data is a relatively accessible and cost-effective approach to study long-term outcomes in oncology. Also in older patients with cancer, longer-term outcome studies are limited and population-based data could help address this gap. Under the lead of UZ Leuven and the Belgian Cancer Registry (BCR), a national study was initiated to explore the association between the general health status of older patients with cancer as assessed by geriatric screening and assessment, and long-term outcomes as captured by population-based data. To this extent, data previously gathered within the context of a multicentre clinical study will be linked with three population-based databases: cancer registration data from BCR, healthcare reimbursement data from InterMutualistic Agency and hospital discharge data from Technical Cell. The major advantage of these population-based data is their longitudinal nature, which allows to follow a (sub)population across several years. The downside is their lack of clinical information. One way to partially overcome this limitation is to supplement population-based data with primary study data to investigate more clinically relevant outcomes. Although often scientifically interesting and appealing, coupling with population-based data demands intensive administrative efforts including an authorisation demand at the Information Security Committee. During the whole process, special attention should be given to privacyrelated aspects of the use and linkage of these data to ensure confidentiality.

BELG J MED ONCOL 2021;15(7):362-6)

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Geriatric syndromes in oncology: what does the oncologist need to know?

BJMO - volume 15, issue 6, october 2021

J. Haesevoets MD, C. Kenis PhD, H. Wildiers MD, PhD, K. Milisen PhD, J. Tournoy MD, PhD, K. Fagard MD


A ‘Geriatric Syndrome’ is characterised by its multifactorial origin. A combination of impairments leads to one specific condition that is typical for frail older patients. The rising incidence of cancer among older adults makes it interesting for the oncologist to understand common geriatric syndromes. The following geriatric syndromes are presented in this article:

Delirium: In patients with cancer, the prevalence of delirium is high. In end-stage malignant disease a prevalence near 90% has been reported. The pathophysiology is characterised by an equilibrium between predisposing and precipitating factors. The more predisposing factors, the less precipitating factors are required to develop delirium, and vice versa. Delirium is often underdiagnosed, although it leads to increased morbidity and mortality. Screening tools, such as the Confusion Assessment Method or the 4 ’A’s Test, could help the oncologist to discover delirium. Prevention and non-pharmacological therapy are the cornerstone of the approach. Pharmacological therapy is only appropriate when non-pharmacological therapy is not successful or if delirium could harm the patient.

Cognitive decline: In Belgium, the prevalence of dementia is estimated at 7.4% in adults aged 65 and over. Apart from dementia, cognitive decline in oncologic patients could also be provoked by cancer or its treatment. Cognitive decline is prognostic for overall survival in older patients with cancer. The Mini-Cog is an easy screening tool for cognitive decline, but more extensive testing, e.g. by means of a Mini Mental State Examination, can also be applied. Referral to a memory clinic should be considered, taking into account oncological diagnosis and prognosis.

Urinary incontinence: About 15 to 35% of patients older than 60 years have urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is associated with falls and fractures, pressure ulcers, and urinary infection. It has an emotional impact, affects quality of life and is associated with higher depression rates. In predisposed patients, precipitating factors could trigger incontinence. Prevention is of high importance and is primarily aimed at treating the precipitating factors. Pharmacological treatment blocking muscarinic receptors is associated with important side effects.

Functional decline: One third of patients receiving chemotherapy suffer from functional decline. Functional decline is prognostic for overall survival. Baseline functional assessment before initiation of treatment is important. The oncologist has to define predisposing and precipitating factors and to estimate the risk of functional decline. A multidisciplinary approach with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses and social workers is warranted to achieve optimal rehabilitation.

Falls: Thirty percent of patients older than 65 years have fall incidents. Ten percent of falls lead to residual injuries. Cancer and its treatment increase the risk of falling. Bone metastases or cancer therapy can lead to more severe injuries. Falls are often preventable. Therefore, risk stratification and formulation of a multifactorial fall prevention plan by a multidisciplinary team is warranted.

(BELG J MED ONCOL 2021;15(6):270-7)

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Highlights in breast cancer

BJMO - volume 15, issue 5, september 2021

J. Blokken PhD, PharmD, T. Feys MSc, MBA, K. Punie MD, H. Wildiers MD, PhD

ASCO 2021 featured one crucial, practice-changing trial in early breast cancer: the OlympiA trial showed that one year of adjuvant olaparib improves invasive disease-free survival by 8.8% compared to placebo, when administered to high risk early breast patients (triple negative or hormone sensitive and HER2 negative) with a germline BRCA1 or 2 mutation. Furthermore, ECOG-ACRIN EA1131 failed to show improved outcome in triple negative breast cancer treated without pathological complete response after neoadjuvant chemo-therapy with platinum based chemotherapy compared to the current standard capecitabine. GeparNUEVO for the first time showed long term outcome with anti-PD(L)1 therapy administered with neoadjuvant chemotherapy in triple negative breast cancer. In the advanced setting, interesting overall survival updates of the PALOMA-3 and MONALEESA-3 studies were presented. Furthermore, the SYsucc-002 trial demonstrated that trastuzumab plus endocrine therapy was non-inferior to and had fewer toxicities compared with trastuzumab plus chemotherapy in patients with HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer. In addition, this article will touch upon several other studies that are notable.

(BELG J MED ONCOL 2021;15(5):208-17)

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A case of HER2-positive breast cancer with rapidly progressing CNS metastases

BJMO - volume 15, issue 3, may 2021

J. Heylen , N. De Moor MD, H. Janssen MD, PhD, K. Punie MD, H. Wildiers MD, PhD


A 53-year old woman previously treated for stage IIIc Her2-positive breast cancer presented to the outpatient oncology department with symptoms of holocranial headache irradiating to the neck in combination with morning sickness and vomitus. Brain CT showed multiple cerebellar metastases with signs of tonsillar herniation through the foramen magnum. Since radiotherapy was deemed unsafe given the possibility that transient increase of intracranial pressure could worsen the herniation, urgent treatment with corticosteroids and capecitabine-lapatinib was started. The metastases and peritumoral oedema initially responded well, which allowed subsequent pancranial radiotherapy after three weeks of systemic therapy. We provide a short overview of studies showing that systemic therapy can induce tumour response in brain metastases related to HER2+ positive disease.

BELG J MED ONCOL 2021;15(3):123-7

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Highlights in breast cancer

BJMO - volume 14, issue 8, december 2020

Tom Feys MBA, MSc, T. Rawson MSc, H. Wildiers MD, PhD, K. Punie MD

During the 2020 Virtual ESMO meeting, long-awaited results were presented of several important breast cancer studies. For hormone receptor positive (HR+) breast cancer, ESMO 2020 featured conflicting results on the use of CDK4/6 inhibitors in the adjuvant treatment of patients with hormone-receptor positive (HR+) early breast cancer. In HR+ metastatic breast cancer, final overall survival data were presented of the SOLAR-1 trial evaluating alpelisib in PIK3CA mutant patients. In triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), new data on immune therapy were presented. In early-stage TNBC, the addition of atezolizumab to neoadjuvant chemotherapy resulted in a significant increase in the rate of pathological complete responses (pCR). In the metastatic setting, final results of the IMpassion130 trial confirmed the benefit of atezolizumab combined with nab-paclitaxel as first-line treatment for metastatic PD-L1 positive TNBC. Unexpectedly, the IMpassion131 trial evaluating atezolizumab plus paclitaxel in first-line treatment of patients with metastatic TNBC failed to meet its primary endpoint. Finally, the phase III randomized controlled ASCENT trial identified the antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) sacituzumab govitecan as a safe and highly effective treatment option for heavily pre-treated metastatic TNBC patients.

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Clinical management of first-line advanced triple-negative breast cancer patients

BJMO - volume 14, issue 7, november 2020

M. Rediti MD, K. Punie MD, E. de Azambuja MD, PhD, E. Naert MD, D. Taylor MD, FP. Duhoux MD, PhD, H. Denys MD, PhD, A. Awada MD, PhD, H. Wildiers MD, PhD, M. Ignatiadis MD, PhD


Chemotherapy has represented the main treatment option for patients with advanced triple-negative breast cancer for a long time. However, due to our better understanding of tumour biology, recent clinical trials led to a change in the treatment paradigm of this disease, identifying clinically relevant subgroups with different therapeutic options. Both clinical and biological factors have become relevant and need to be considered in the treatment decision algorithm of this heterogeneous disease.

(BELG J MED ONCOL 2020;14(7):333-38)

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Highlights in breast cancer

BJMO - volume 14, issue 5, september 2020

J. Blokken PhD, PharmD, Tom Feys MBA, MSc, H. Wildiers MD, PhD


During the 2020 Virtual ASCO meeting, no less than 226 presentations were dedicated to breast cancer. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all these abstracts, but instead we try to focus on the data that are most relevant for your daily clinical practice.

(BELG J MED ONCOL 2020;14(5):191-200)

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