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Why Do African-Americans Fare Worse With Cancer? Access and Economics Are Only Part of the Story
Date:7/7/2009

cer to a 61% higher risk for ovarian cancer patients.

The elimination of treatment and socioeconomic factors as the cause of this higher mortality "implicates biology," says study co-author Dawn L. Hershman, M.D., of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"There may be differences in genetic factors by race that alter the metabolism of chemotherapy drugs or that make cancers more resistant or more aggressive," she adds.

Hershman published a smaller study last month that found that, at least with breast cancer, disparities in survival based on race persist even after adjusting for differences in treatment. That study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, analyzed data on 634 breast cancer patients.

"Our study of multiple cancers is distinguished from others that have looked at race-based disparities by its size and by the source of its data," says Joseph Unger of the Southwest Oncology Group's Statistical Center, who was statistician and co-author on the new JNCI study.

The study analyzed records from 35 clinical trials - going back as far as 1974 - that had been conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group, an NCI-sponsored cooperative group headquartered at the University of Michigan. Using data from clinical trials, which are already controlled for a range of potentially confounding factors such as differences in diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up, helps throw the remaining factors into sharper relief, according to Frank L. Meyskens, Jr., M.D.

"It's because of the similar way that people are treated on clinical trials that these differences are even detectable," he says. Meyskens is associate chair for Cancer Control and Prevention for the Southwest Oncology Group and director of the University of California-Irvine's Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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SOURCE Southwest Oncology Group
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