Health Care Disparities Might Affect Black Kids' Cancer
TUESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Equal access to health care
would reduce the disparity in survival rates between white and
black children with cancer, a new study suggests.
Researchers from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in
Memphis, Tenn., found that access to clinical trials and more
expensive treatments, such as bone marrow transplants, helped
improve outcomes for children with cancer regardless of their
ability to pay. This was particularly true, they noted, for those
with advanced or complex forms of cancer.
In conducting the study, researchers compared the outcomes of
more than 4,000 St. Jude patients and nearly 24,000 pediatric
patients treated at various U.S. medical centers for 19 different
forms of cancer. Of the St. Jude patients, 19 percent were black
and about 75 percent were white. Of the patients treated at various
U.S. hospitals, about 10 percent were black and about 58 percent
Among the children treated at St. Jude, the study found almost
no difference in survival rates between white and black patients
for nearly all cancers during a 15-year period. During this time,
the study authors pointed out, the nation's overall five-year
pediatric cancer survival rate surpassed 80 percent due to medical
Only children who had some rare types of cancer and advanced
forms of the disease when treatment began did not have improved
outcomes, the investigators noted.
In contrast, the study, which was published in the April 30
online edition of the
Journal of Clinical Oncology, showed that many black children across the United States are not benefiting from the progress that has been made in pediatric cancer treatment.
The study revealed that these children had significantly worse
outcomes than white patients with the same type of cancer. Although
the gap in survival rates for patients with acute lymphoblastic
leukemia and Hodgkin lymphoma narrowed during the 15-year study,
the gap widened for children with acute myeloid leukemia and
neuroblastoma, a tumor of the nervous system.
"These findings flow directly from [St. Jude founder] Danny Thomas's strong view that to conquer childhood cancer, treatment must be equally available across all racial and ethnic groups, which has been the case at St. Jude since [Thomas] opened the doors in 1962," Dr. William Evans, the study's co-author and St. Jude's CEO, said in a hospital news release.
The study authors said that equal access to care is vital to
improve survival rates for children with cancer.
"This study shows that with outstanding medical care and psychosocial support, [black] patients should not necessarily fare worse than white patients," the study's lead author, Dr. Ching-Hon Pui, chairman of the St. Jude department of oncology, said in the news release.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about
racial disparities in health care.
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