April 3, 2008 / 5:44 PM / 11 years ago

Racial differences seen in Hodgkin's disease

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Black children with Hodgkin’s disease, also referred to as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, appear to be more likely to have relapses compared with their white counterparts. However, the overall 5-year survival rate is essentially the same for both groups, researchers report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Monika L. Metzger of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee and colleagues point out that some studies have indicated that black children who have childhood cancers may have a survival disadvantage compared with white children.

To investigate further, the researchers conducted a review of 262 white and 65 black patients. Sixty percent of the black children came from poor areas compared with 45 percent of the whites; and 32 percent of the black children were covered by private insurance compared with 50 percent of the whites.

Nevertheless, the researchers found that all of the patients were treated with combined therapy, regardless of race, ethnicity, or their ability to pay.

Black and white children were also equally likely to have disease progression or an early relapse. However, black children were 3.7 times more likely to have a relapse 1 year or longer after their diagnosis.

While the event-free survival rate was 71 percent in black children and 84 percent in white children after 5 years, the overall survival rates were similar, at 94.7 percent and 94.4 percent, respectively.

Commenting on the findings, Metzger told Reuters Health that “all race-related studies in pediatric cancer have to be evaluated carefully.”

“To what effect different biologic factors play a role remains unanswered,” she added. “However, hopefully new therapeutic treatment strategies, equal access to care, and social support to all families during therapy will continue to improve outcome for any child with cancer regardless of ethnicity and social origin.”

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Oncology, March 10, 2008.

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