The Black-white gap in blood cancer outcomes

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NEW research examines racial disparities in a particularly aggressive form of blood cancer: acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

In this feature, we delve deeper into these disparities and discuss the implications of the findings with the study’s lead author.

The Black-white survival gap for acute myeloid leukemia has increased over time, which is not true for other forms of cancer.

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AML is a form of blood cancer, and in 2017, more than 64,000 people in the United States were affected by it.

The outcome for this form of cancer is particularly poor, with a relative 5-year survival rate of less than 29%.

Previous research has shown that in AML, just like in other types of leukemia, there are significant racial differences.

For example, a comprehensive study examining the respective outcomes of four subtypes of leukemia across four racial groups — non-Hispanic white, Hispanic white, Black, and Asian and Pacific Islander — found that Black adults have the poorest 5-year outlook.

For AML specifically, this study determined that the survival rate of Black adults was 11.5% lower than that of their white counterparts.

But why do these disparities exist? Some studies have pointed to biological and genetic factors, while others have adjusted for these factors in their analyses and continued to find gaping disparities, most likely due to inequities in the treatment and care that Black adults receive.

In this context, researchers from the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC), in Columbus, explored factors that might contribute to these disparities.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Bhavana Bhatnagar, DO, a hematologist at the OSUCCC’s Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

Dr. Bhatnagar and her team presented their findings at the 62nd American Society of Hematology Meeting and Exposition, which took place in December 2020.

In their research, Dr. Bhatnagar and her co-authors set out to do two things. The first was to analyze the outcomes of adults living with AML in a nationwide population study, examining the “possible impacts of sociodemographic, financial, and racial disparities.”

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