Study: Black Patients With NSCLC Treated With Immunotherapy Have Lower Risk of Death Than White Patients


The results of a study showed that non-Hispanic Black patients treated with immunotherapy had a 15% lower risk of death from non–small cell lung cancer than non-Hispanic white patients.

Non-Hispanic Black patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who were treated with immunotherapy had a lower risk of death than non-Hispanic white individuals who were treated with immunotherapy, according to a study by the American Association for Cancer Research.

“We wanted to see whether, among people who had access to immunotherapy, disparities between Black and white patients persisted, or whether they were mitigated,” Tomi Akinyemiju, PhD, an associate professor in population health sciences at the Duke Cancer Institute, said in a press release. “If they persisted, it could potentially mean that the treatment didn’t work as well in certain population groups, but if they were mitigated, it would support the idea that access is a big issue.”

The study was designed to control for access-related issues by restricting the study supply to individuals who had already received immunotherapy. The results showed that non-Hispanic Black patients with NSCLC had a 15% lower risk of death than non-Hispanic white patients.

In addition, Black patients in the lowest two quartiles of median income had an 18% lower risk of death compared to white patients at the same income level. For individuals with at least 1 comorbidity, black individuals experienced a 24% lower risk of death than white individuals.

Investigators gathered data from the 2016 National Cancer Database on 3068 individuals with advanced NSCLC who were treated with immunotherapy. The study authors adjusted for factors such as age, sex, location, income tumor characteristic, and type of treatment. Limitations included a lack of data on smoking status as well as types and severity of the comorbidities in the study.

Black men are more likely to die from lung cancer than white men, which includes biological differences that affect disease progression and treatment response, according to the study authors. Another reason, Akinyemiju said, was access to care, high cost, lack of access to academic medical centers, and distrust of health care providers.

The results were presented at the virtual 14th AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved.


Black lung cancer patients receiving immunotherapy may fare better than white patients. EurekAlert. News release. October 6, 2021. Accessed on October 21, 2021.

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