Facts must be determined for Carter care, say doctors
Determining what treatment to pursue for former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s cancer will depend on several factors, but the first tasks are to determine where it started and whether it is curable, doctors said.
Carter, 90, announced Wednesday that recent liver surgery found cancer that has spread to other parts of his body.
A statement released by the Carter Center indicates that the Nobel peace laureate’s cancer is widespread but not where it originated. The liver is often a place where cancer spreads and less commonly is its primary source.
The statement said further information will be provided when more facts are known, “possibly next week.”
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said determining where the cancer originated can help select the treatment. Sometimes the primary site can’t be determined, so genetic analysis of the tumor might be done to see what mutations are driving it and what drugs might target those mutations.
Much in successful cancer treatment depends on the patient’s “biological” age versus his actual years, said Dr. Lodovico Balducci, a specialist on treating cancer in the elderly at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
“A man 90 years old normally would have a life expectancy of two or three years, but Jimmy Carter is probably much younger than that” in terms of his function, Balducci said. “If he tolerated liver surgery, I imagine he has a relatively good tolerance” to other treatments that might be tried.
The first task is to determine whether the cancer is curable, “which is unlikely with metastatic cancer,” or if it is possible to meaningfully prolong the life through surgery or other treatments, Balducci said.