NEW YORK (July 8, 2009) A new finding reveals that African-American patients with breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer tend to die earlier than patients of other races with these cancers, even when they receive identical medical treatment and when socioeconomic factors are controlled for. The finding, an analysis of almost 20,000 patient records from 35 clinical trials, points to biological or genetic factors as the potential source of the survival gap. Dawn Hershman, M.D, M.S., a Columbia University Medical Center oncologist whose research is dedicated to examining racial and ethnic disparities in cancer outcome and in cancer survivorship, was the senior author of the research published online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI).
The study analyzed patient records from clinical trials going back as far as 1974 conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG). The investigators conducted an analysis that controlled for comparable treatment, disparities in tumor prognosis, demographics, and socioeconomic status, and found no statistically significant difference in survival based on race for a number of cancers including lung, colon, lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. However, African-American patients with breast, ovarian, or prostate cancers the gender specific tumors were found to face a significantly higher risk of death than did other patients, ranging from 21 percent higher for those with prostate cancer to 61 percent higher for ovarian cancer patients.
The poorer outcome for African-American cancer patients was supported by separate data published last month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), which found that disparities in breast cancer survival based on race persisted even after adjusting for differences in treatment. That analysis of data from 634 breast cancer patients who participated in two SWOG-conducted trials was led by first author Dr. Hershman. Findings revealed that African-America
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Columbia University Medical Center