Study Highlights Strategies to Improve Equity in Cancer Care

During the trial, the research team wanted to look at aggressive B cell lymphomas and the outcomes comparing white patients versus minorities.

A study in Cancer has highlighted the effects of patients’ equal access to high-quality cancer care, including the use of a specialized nurse navigator, can result in equal outcomes of White and minority patients with aggressive large B-cell lymphomas (LBCL).

Minorities and women are often underrepresented in clinical trials, according to lead study investigator Bei Hu, MD, a lymphoma cellular therapy physician at Levine Cancer Institute. This lack in representation makes this study critically important to the advancement of the oncology field.

“Observationally, I didn’t see that here, and so I wanted to see what the actual results were,” said Hu.

During the trial, the research team wanted to look at aggressive B cell lymphomas and the outcomes comparing white patients versus minorities. Out of 204 patients, approximately a quarter were minorities and three-quarters were white, and they each received treatment for initial and/or relapsed disease at the Levine Cancer Institute’s central location.

Additionally, Hu and her colleagues assessed a number of variables, including the types of treatments patients received, their participation in clinical trials, the number and type of encounters patients had with nurse navigators, and overall survival and progression-free survival.

When assessing nurse navigators’ encounters with patients, investigators looked at how these encounters impacted patient care and the utilization of nurse navigation programs. During this assessment, Hu saw that both populations used these navigators but in different ways. Minorities and patients with low health literacy were seen to have a higher rate of encounters on topics such as insurance and financial issues, as well as faced more challenges in terms of their care.

Hu concluded that if minorities and patients with low health literacy are able to have equal access to corrected care, the results may show that these patients are able to achieve equal health outcomes.

Future studies are recommended to investigate this topic further, Hu noted. Since this was a single study and the first of its kind, its focus was more centralized in lymphoma versus other sites, and did not take a specific look at nurse navigation overall, such as at post-intervention practices.

In her closing thoughts, Hu emphasized the importance of understanding the differences among patients in terms of biology of the disease.

“To understand the barriers or limitations your patient faces in coming to your appointment to receive treatment is important, such as insurance, financial issues, work, or if they have transportation,” Hu said.

Hu added that although oncology care may be complicated and difficult for patients to navigate, it remains important for someone like a nurse navigator to help guide them through the process.

“These problems are not unsolvable,” Hu said. “There are interventions that can be had so that patients can show up for their appointments to receive treatment and ultimately achieve as good of outcomes as they can.”

REFERENCE

Levine Cancer Institute Study Suggests Effective Strategies to Improve Equity in Cancer Care. Atrium Health. August 30, 2021. Accessed September 2, 2021. https://atriumhealth.org/about-us/newsroom/news/2021/08/Levine-Cancer-Institute-Study-Suggests-Effective-Strategies-to-Improve-Equity-in-Cancer-Care