When cancer grows old initiative

As Cancer in Older People Increases, so do the Challenges to Help Them Live Longer, Fuller Lives

Last update: May 17, 2021

The world’s population is ageing more quickly than ever before. By 2050, the number of people over 60 is expected to double. People with cancer are also growing older. Approximately 37% of new cancer cases around the world are diagnosed in people older than 70,2  and this number is predicted to more than double by 2040.3  This staggering trend will place a significant burden on individuals, families, communities and healthcare systems worldwide. 

Our multiyear When Cancer Grows Old™ initiative is intended to address the challenges of cancer and ageing. We are collaborating with the global cancer community of advocates, healthcare providers and others around the world to find solutions and create change so that ageing people with cancer have the best possible chance to grow old.

When Cancer Grows Old Program Trailer Video

Ageing people with cancer and their families often face inconsistent treatment and prevention guidance,4,5,6 additional health problems that require customized care,4,7  and lack of access to customized information, resources and post-treatment support.7,8,9 

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Sanofi Is Committed to Solutions

In 2020, Sanofi began work to advance customized solutions for ageing people with cancer throughout all stages of the disease.

We continue to collaborate with our partners around the world to inspire advocates and healthcare providers to identify the solutions needed to support older people with cancer, and their families, in unprecedented ways. 

A Global Response to Cancer and Ageing

As part of a multiyear collaboration we are working with the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and the European Cancer Organisation to raise awareness, advance understanding and inform discussions on age-inclusive cancer programs. 

As part of this, Sanofi was proud to support a two-part Ageing and Cancer series of virtual discussions exploring cancer control in the context of an ageing world and against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following an initial discussion on Caring for older cancer patients during COVID-19, UICC held its second discussion of the series, a Long View Dialogue on Reshaping cancer control for ageing societies.

Sanofi’s Peter Adamson, Global Head, Oncology Development & Pediatric Innovation, also shared his perspective on why there is a need to improve outcomes for those living with cancer. To read his blog, click here.

As a member of European Cancer Organisation’s Community 365 Roundtable on Inequalities, Sanofi led a discussion on Treating Ageing Patients with Cancer. The discussion served as a critical opportunity to elevate challenges in the region, including the convergence of cancer and ageing and associated policy implications, just months ahead of the anticipated launch of the EU Beating Cancer Plan. The Action Report developed from the roundtable, It Can Be Done: Beating Inequalities in Cancer Care, can be found here and was launched at the 2020 European Cancer Summit.

The Intersection of Innovation and Healthcare 

In 2020, Sanofi engaged with more than 700 “hackers” from around the world, to tackle some of healthcare’s biggest challenges at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Hacking Medicine Grand Hack. 

Each year, MIT Hacking Medicine brings together a diverse mix of attendees from around the world who have an interest and passion for healthcare innovation. Sanofi sponsored two hackathon tracks, one focused on cancer and one on ageing, with the goal of generating innovative ideas that may help address gaps in care for people living with cancer. 

Within 48 hours, more than 40 teams participated in our sponsored challenges in cancer and ageing. Participants shared unique solutions to help customize cancer care and to help us think differently about ageing populations of patients. 

Sanofi leaders participated as judges for the two Sanofi-sponsored tracks and helped select the winning ideas for the “Customized Cancer Care” and “Future of Aging” challenges. Many other Sanofi colleagues participated as mentors to help guide participants’ ideas and provide feedback in the areas of oncology and ageing.

Developing Customized Solutions Around the Globe

As part of Sanofi’s commitment to the global cancer community, we’ve offered funding opportunities to more than five local, regional and global organizations whose mission is to find solutions to address the unique challenges at the intersection of cancer and ageing since 2020.

The expanded 2021 Contributions Initiative will be a global funding opportunity to support more local organizations, medical institutions and healthcare facilities that submit specific proposals for projects or activities that focus on improving the patient journey for the ageing cancer population, including in the challenges faced by patients, families and providers in the context of COVID-19. Our mission is to highlight those who work hard to address gaps in the healthcare continuum, and to honor the World Health Organization’s designation of 2021 as the Year of Health and Care Workers.

A Study to Define Policy Gaps

We commissioned The Economist Intelligence Unit to identify policy gaps around cancer and ageing and quantify the scope of pressing needs. The report, Cancer and Ageing: Policy Responses to Meeting the Needs of Older People, explores existing policy framework, drawing on experience and findings from key experts across Europe, Japan and the U.S. The report provides key considerations for societies to better respond to the unique challenges older people face across their cancer journey.

The Time for Change Is Now

The challenges faced by ageing people with cancer will only escalate if societies do not have the will or the ways to address these gaps across the patient care experience. Now is the time to bring together the best thinking and resources from around the world to create a ripple effect of change and action.


1 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Ageing 2017 - Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/397).
2 Globocan. Global Cancer Observatory Cancer Tomorrow. World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer Website. 2018. http://gco.iarc.fr/tomorrow/graphic-isotype?type=0&population=900&mode=population&sex=0&cancer=39&age_group=65%2B&apc_male=0&apc_female=0. Accessed on 26 Nov, 2019.
Globocan. Global Cancer Observatory Cancer Tomorrow. World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer Website. 2018. http://gco.iarc.fr/tomorrow/graphic-line?type=0&population=900&mode=population&sex=0&cancer=39&age_group=65%2B&apc_male=0&apc_female=0. Accessed on 26 Nov, 2019.
Pilleron, S., Sarfati, D., JanssenHeijnen, M., Vignat, J , Ferlay, J., Bray, F. and Soerjomataram, I. (2019), Global cancer incidence in older adults, 2012 and 2035: A populationbased study. Int J Cancer, 144: 49-58. doi:10.1002/ijc.31664.
Bareket, R., Schonberg, M. A., Comaneshter, D., Schonmann, Y., Shani, M., Cohen, A. and Vinker, S. (2017), Cancer Screening of Older Adults in Israel According to Life Expectancy: Cross Sectional Study. J Am Geriatr Soc, 65: 2539-2544. doi:10.1111/jgs.15035
Ebell, M.H., Thai, T.N. and Royalty, K.J. (2018), Cancer screening recommendations: an international comparison of high income countries. Public Health Rev, 39(7). doi:10.1186/s40985-018-0080-0
Cope, D.G. (2006), An Evidence-Based Approach to the Treatment and Care of the Older Adult With Cancer. Chapter 1: Cancer and the Aging Population. https://www.ons.org/sites/default/files/publication_pdfs/Evidence%20Based%20Practice_Older_Adult_CHAPTER_1.pdf
Baitar, A., Buntinx, F., De, T., Deckx, L., Bulens, P., Wildiers, H. and Van, M. (2017), The utilization of formal and informal home care by older patients with cancer: a Belgian cohort study with two control groups. BMC Health Services Research, 17(1): 644. doi:10.1186/s12913-017-2594-4
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Psychosocial Services to Cancer Patients/Families in a Community Setting; Adler NE, Page AEK, editors. Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2008. 1, The Psychosocial Needs of Cancer Patients. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK4011/.