Racial disparities in cancer survival among randomized clinical trials patients of the southwest oncology group

Kathy S. Albain, Joseph M. Unger, John J. Crowley, Charles A. Coltman, Dawn L. Hershman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

356 Scopus citations


BackgroundRacial disparities in cancer outcomes have been observed in several malignancies. However, it is unclear if survival differences persist after adjusting for clinical, demographic, and treatment variables. Our objective was to determine whether racial disparities in survival exist among patients enrolled in consecutive trials conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG).MethodsWe identified 19457 adult cancer patients (6676 with breast, 2699 with lung, 1244 with colon, 1429 with ovarian, and 1843 with prostate cancers; 1291 with lymphoma; 2067 with leukemia; and 2208 with multiple myeloma) who were treated on 35 SWOG randomized phase III clinical trials from October 1, 1974, through November 29, 2001. Patients were grouped according to studies of diseases with similar histology and stage. Cox regression was used to evaluate the association between race and overall survival within each disease site grouping, controlling for available prognostic factors plus education and income, which are surrogates for socioeconomic status. Median and ten-year overall survival estimates were derived by the Kaplan-Meier method. All statistical tests were two-sided.ResultsOf 19457 patients registered, 2308 (11.9%, range = 3.9%-21.6%) were African American. After adjustment for prognostic factors, African American race was associated with increased mortality in patients with early-stage premenopausal breast cancer (hazard ratio [HR] for death = 1.41, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.10 to 1.82; P =. 007), early-stage postmenopausal breast cancer (HR for death = 1.49, 95% CI = 1.28 to 1.73; P <. 001), advanced-stage ovarian cancer (HR for death = 1.61, 95% CI = 1.18 to 2.18; P =. 002), and advanced-stage prostate cancer (HR for death = 1.21, 95% CI = 1.08 to 1.37; P =. 001). No statistically significant association between race and survival for lung cancer, colon cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, or myeloma was observed. Additional adjustments for socioeconomic status did not substantially change these observations. Ten-year (and median) overall survival rates for African American vs all other patients were 68% (not reached) vs 77% (not reached), respectively, for early-stage, premenopausal breast cancer; 52% (10.2 years) vs 62% (13.5 years) for early-stage, postmenopausal breast cancer; 13% (1.3 years) vs 17% (2.3 years) for advanced ovarian cancer; and 6% (2.2 years) vs 9% (2.7 years) for advanced prostate cancer.ConclusionsAfrican American patients with sex-specific cancers had worse survival than white patients, despite enrollment on phase III SWOG trials with uniform stage, treatment, and follow-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)984-992
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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