Study Reveals Racial Disparities in Cancer Treatment


Celgene Corporation announced the presentation of a study comparing treatment patterns, healthcare costs and overall survival between African American and Caucasian Medicare beneficiaries with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. The study, which was presented by Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi of the Mayo Clinic at a poster session during the 52nd ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill, discussed disparities observed in treatment initiation between the two studied populations and the impact of these disparities on patient outcomes.

“African Americans may be more at risk for developing multiple myeloma than Caucasians, however, they often can have a better prognosis when they get the proper care,” said Dr. Manali Patel of the Stanford Cancer Center and an investigator in the study. “Through studies like this, we are trying to better understand potential modifiable drivers of these disparities to improve outcomes for African Americans living with multiple myeloma.”

The study found that elderly African Americans with multiple myeloma had lower rates of receiving access to autologous stem cell transplant (3% vs 6%, p < 0.01) and novel combination therapies (66% vs 74% among patients with pharmacological therapy, p < 0.01) compared to Caucasians with the disease. The median times from diagnosis to therapy initiation (2.3 vs 1.7 months, p < 0.05) and novel therapy initiation (5.3 vs 3.1 months, p < 0.05) were also significantly longer for African Americans than Caucasians. The study found, however, that overall survival (OS) was comparable between African Americans and Caucasians (26.7 vs 30.0 months, p = 0.27) and total healthcare costs were similar across cohorts, although African Americans had higher costs for hospitalizations, emergency visits, and skilled nursing facility.

The study evaluated 2,200 Caucasian and 536 African American multiple myeloma patients in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) Medicare database from 2007 and 2011, with the index date being defined as the first date of diagnosis with multiple myeloma. Patients were required to be continuously enrolled in Medicare Part A, B, and D for six months before (baseline period) and at least six months after the index date (study period), unless they died.

“Treatment disparities exist between African American and Caucasian patients suffering from multiple myeloma,” said Dr. Mohamad Hussein, Vice President of Global Medical Affairs for Celgene. “At Celgene, we believe it is imperative to improve education, awareness and treatment access among African Americans, particularly since they are more predisposed to being diagnosed with the disease.”

Researchers determined that differences in disease aggressiveness and other clinical characteristics at baseline between African Americans and Caucasians should be explored in future studies as they can impact treatment outcomes.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common form of blood cancer in the United States, and the most common blood cancer among African Americans. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Novel therapeutic advances made in multiple myeloma over the past decade have significantly improved outcomes for patients when they receive access to timely care and treatment.

To address this disparity in multiple myeloma, Celgene created the “Standing in the Gaap for African Americans with Multiple Myeloma” program in 2015 to raise awareness about how multiple myeloma affects African Americans differently and to improve the quality of care they receive. In addition to addressing treatment disparities and access for African Americans with multiple myeloma, the program is committed to understanding the genetic differences between African American patients and other patients to better guide current treatment decisions and future research. In addition, the program aims to improve enrollment of African American multiple myeloma patients in clinical trials, which is critical to accelerating knowledge gathering and new discoveries for this highly fatal disease.


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