Other highlights in the Feb. 20 issue of JNCI

Social Factors May Affect Survival in African-American Lung Cancer Patients
A new study suggests that socioeconomic status and other social circumstances could be responsible for decreased physical health at the time of diagnosis among African-American patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, which may explain disparities in survival rates between African-American and non-African-American patients who receive the same treatment for their cancer.

A. William Blackstock, M.D., of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues pooled data from five clinical trials of treatments for non-small-cell lung cancer and found that the one-year survival rate was 22% among African-American patients and 30% among non-African-American patients. The investigators collected information on the patients to determine if the difference was related to innate characteristics of the disease in the two ethnicities or to disparities in health care.

They found that both groups of patients had similar stages of disease when they entered the clinical trials; however, substantially more African-American patients had a worse performance status (the ability to perform physical activity) and had experienced weight loss associated with their disease. (Both of these factors are known to have a negative impact on survival.) After the investigators performed statistical tests to adjust for these factors, there was no difference in outcome between the two ethnic groups.

They also found that African-American patients were more likely to be unmarried, to be uninsured or rely upon Medicaid, and in, general, to have a lower income. The authors note that these factors are associated with decreased overall health, and, by extension, survival outcomes. They conclude that these results lend further support to evidence that equal treatment of racially diverse patients with equivalent pretreatment prognostic features results in equal outcom

Contact: Linda Wang
Journal of the National Cancer Institute

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