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Study finds racial disparities in breast cancer prognosis testing

Black women have higher recurrence and mortality rates than non-Hispanic white women for certain types of breast cancer, according to a study of more than 70,000 U.S. patients. “We found there was a much higher mortality rate for African American women with the most common subtype of breast cancer event when they are diagnosed at an early stage,” said Kent Hoskins (above) of the Breast Cancer Research group in the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

Women with hormone-dependent breast cancer typically have a favorable prognosis, but Hoskins found that even after adjusting for age at diagnosis, tumor stage and treatment, there is still a significant mortality gap between Black and non-Hispanic white women with axillary node-negative, hormone-dependent tumors that have a comparable Oncotype Recurrence Score. This Score is a genomic test that analyzes the activity of a group of genes that can affect how a cancer is likely to behave and respond to treatment.

The research also found that Black women are more likely to have a high-risk Oncotype Recurrence Score, indicating that Black women disproportionately develop biologically aggressive tumors. According to Hoskins, the underlying cause of this is unknown, but this is an active area of research among University of Illinois Cancer Center investigators. The Oncotype test also had lower prognostic accuracy in Black women, indicating that genomic tumor tests used to identify candidates for chemotherapy may require re-calibration in populations with greater racial and ethnic diversity.

Photo credit: Jenny Fontaine

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