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Advanced breast cancer is more common among black, Hispanic and Asian women than it is in white women. As a result, black women often receive chemotherapy before surgery in an effort to improve their outcomes, the Yale University Cancer Center researchers said.
But their study of 27,300 women with stage 1 to 3 breast cancer showed that early (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy was less effective in black patients than in other women.
"Even when we controlled for the fact that minority women often present with more advanced-stage, higher-grade tumors, and more aggressive types of breast cancer overall, our team was surprised to find that black women did not respond as well to neoadjuvant chemotherapy compared to other racial groups," study first author Brigid Killelea, an associate professor of surgery (oncology), said in a Yale news release.
It's not clear why early chemotherapy is less effective in black women, the researchers said, but possible factors include differences in sensitivity to chemotherapy, treatment differences or social and economic factors.
More research is required, according to study senior author Dr. Donald Lannin, a professor of surgery (oncology) at Yale.
"The next step should be to determine which drugs black women respond to and which they don't. For future studies, it will be important to have enough black women in the trials, so that we can be certain they benefit equally from new drugs as they are developed," Lannin said.
The findings were published recently in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
-- Robert Preidt
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