Current Oncology Reports

, 21:107 | Cite as

Poor-Performance Status Assessment of Patients with Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Remains Vague and Blurred in the Immunotherapy Era

  • Alex Friedlaender
  • Giuseppe Luigi Banna
  • Lucio Buffoni
  • Alfredo AddeoEmail author
Lung Cancer (H Borghaei, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Lung Cancer


Purpose of Review

In the latest decade, the introduction of immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) has dramatically improved the prognosis of patients with NSCLC. First-line ICIs or chemo-ICI trials have demonstrated OS advantages but the accrual was limited to Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (PS)0-1 patients. ICI studies have for the vast majority excluded patients with poor performance status. PS 2 particularly is known as a negative prognostic factor for survival and a predictive factor of adverse events and poor response to treatments. Data on the activity of ICIs in PS2 patients are limited and come from heterogeneous meta-analyses and small phase II or expanded access trials. Often, terms such as “unfit” or “frail” ascertain the eligibility of patients to undergo cytotoxic chemotherapy, without specifying PS.

Recent Findings

Other tools exist to aid in decision-making, and one simple, rapid, and validated screening test for frailty is the FRAIL scale consisting of 5 straightforward questions that can be self-administered and may represent an efficient and cost-effective way to screen large groups of patients for frailty. The Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) is a widely used method to determine the medical, psychological, and functional capabilities of older patients. However, CGA is time-consuming and this could represent a real barrier to its adoption in clinical practice. For this reason, a quick screening tool, the G8 questionnaire, has been developed and demonstrated validity also in a younger population. A complementary tool to assess patients’ frailty is Charlson comorbidity index (CCI) which has become the most widely used clinical index for a variety of disorders and cancers. Yet, none of these tools has been validated as predictive in ICI.


In conclusion, solid data regarding the benefit of ICIs in ECOG PS2 NSCLC patients are currently lacking and the role of immunotherapy remains uncertain for PS2 patients. Prospective randomized trials addressing this question are warranted or ongoing. However, we are concerned that without a more extensive and objective assessment of patients’ fitness and frailty by using and validating appropriate tools a clear answer may not come to light.


Performance status Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) Frail Unfit Immunotherapy 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Alex Friedlaender has received compensation from Roche, Pfizer, Astellas and Bristol-Myers Squibb for service as a consultant.

Giuseppe Luigi Banna has received compensation from Merck Sharpe & Dohme, Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen-Cilag and Roche for participating on advisory boards.

Lucio Buffoni has received compensation from Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck Sharpe & Dohme, AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim for participating on advisory boards.

Alfredo Addeo has received research funding from Boehringer Ingelheim, and has received compensation from Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, Merck Sharpe & Dohme, Takeda, Pfizer, Roche and Boehringer Ingelheim for participating on advisory boards.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex Friedlaender
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Luigi Banna
    • 2
  • Lucio Buffoni
    • 3
  • Alfredo Addeo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Oncology DepartmentGeneva University HospitalGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Oncology DepartmentUnited Lincolnshire NHS Hospital TrustLincolnUK
  3. 3.Oncology DepartmentSan Luigi Hospital University of TurinTurinItaly

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