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Overcoming Racial Disparities in Multiple Myeloma Research and Care

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September 1, 2020

Increasing Treatment Access and Trial Participation Can Help

  • Multiple myeloma is more than twice as common, and as deadly, in Black patients as in white patients
  • Research shows that Black patients are just as likely to survive if they have access to the same care
  • Increasing diversity in clinical trials could help reduce disparities in multiple myeloma care
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Multiple myeloma has one of the most dramatic racial disparities of any cancers. Black Americans are more than twice as likely to get this cancer than white Americans,¬†according to the International Myeloma Foundation. They’re also more likely to die from multiple myeloma.

Compounding this disparity is the lack of access to stem cell transplants and other treatments, Mayo Clinic medical oncologist, Dr. Vincent Rajkumar, tells SurvivorNet Connect.¬†“Studies show that, for almost any cancer, overall survival is half in African Americans compared with whites, and that is primarily driven by access and cost.”

While the inequity is clear, the cause is less apparent. “Why is it that African Americans have two or three times more risk of myeloma?” Dr. Rajkumar asks. “Is it modifiable? Can we change that?” When Black Americans do have the same access to care, the playing field levels, and they achieve the same response and survival rates as do white Americans.

He believes the FDA should be more aggressive about requiring pharmaceutical companies to ensure that clinical trials for new drugs are more representative of the U.S. population. “Many phase III trials have hardly any African Americans enrolled, which means that the drugs we use, we have no clear idea whether they work the same, whether they have different side effects in Blacks as compared to whites,” he says. He adds that he’s “very optimistic” that his colleagues in cancer care are working to address the disparity.