Karmanos Physician-Scientists Examine Racial Disparities In Patients With Gynecologic Cancer

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Gynecological Cancer

Karmanos Cancer Institute physician-scientists reported on two research studies investigating racial disparities in patients with gynecologic cancer.

Caucasian patients with endometrial or ovarian cancer, on average, live longer than their African American counterparts. Led by Veronica Schimp, D.O., assistant professor of gynecologic oncology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, two studies were conducted to determine if this stems from the molecular composition of the tumor, or the aggressiveness of the treatment plan. Dr. Schimp's presentation, Outcomes of Endometrial and Ovarian Cancer Treatment and Ethnicity, was part of the conference's Minorities in Cancer Research Forum.

Endometrial Cancer Patients - Racial Disparities at the Molecular Level?

Dr. Schimp's team analyzed the molecular profiles of endometrial cancer in a group of 150 Caucasian and African American patients using a number of known molecular markers. The tumors' expression of these markers was compared based on ethnicity and tumor type (Type I = endometrioid carcinomas, hormone-related tumors and Type II = non-endometrioid carcinomas, non-hormone related tumors which are more clinically aggressive).

"Upon conclusion of the five-year study, we found the molecular profiles were similar between the two ethnic groups," explains Dr. Schimp. "While African American patients with endometrial cancer seemed to show a trend toward a shorter survival, this seemed to be mainly due to their higher proportion of Type II tumors which are more aggressive by nature."

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Ovarian Cancer Patients - Racial Disparities Based on Treatment Plan?

Karmanos researchers conducted a study to determine whether the survival rates among African Americans with ovarian cancer are shorter than those of Caucasians due to a less aggressive treatment plan. These treatment plans may be prescribed by the physician, chosen by the patient, or due to a lack of treatment options.

Over seven years, Karmanos physician-scientists followed a group of 170 Caucasian and African American ovarian cancer patients through similar treatment plans, consisting of surgery and chemotherapy. The study revealed, out of the 70 percent of patients who had optimal tumor reduction surgery followed by chemotherapy, the Caucasian patients lived 16-20 months longer than the African American patients.

These results were compared to the Charlson co-morbidity index, which predicts the one-year mortality for a patient who may have a range of co-morbid conditions, such as a patient suffering from cancer along with diabetes.

"African Americans were found to have higher co-morbidity scores, meaning they may have additional factors that contribute to their cancer survivability rate," said Dr. Schimp. "Our study revealed that, in part, a patient's outcome is based on her co-morbidity score, not only on the biology of her cancer or aggressiveness of the cancer treatment."

Based in midtown Detroit, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is committed to a future free of cancer.

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