Black AML Patients Have a 40% Higher Mortality Rate than White Patients

One of the largest studies to look at acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in black patients shows they have a 40% higher mortality rate than their white counterparts.

Northfield, Illinois (September 8, 2021) – AML is an aggressive and sudden blood cancer that affects more than 20K people per year in the United States. It is particularly difficult to treat, with only about 25% of patients being cured.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, Ann-Kathrin Eisfeld, MD, and colleagues from The Ohio State University identified that black young adults with AML had poorer survival outcomes than their white counterparts due to genetic differences.

“All previous large studies surrounding AML disease biology have either been solely based on white patients or did not separately analyze data with respect to race,” said Dr. Eisfield. “Less is known about AML in black patients, making our research particularly significant to the future of how AML is treated in these patients.”

To arrive at their findings, Dr. Eisfeld and colleagues pulled data from the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database of more than 11K adults diagnosed with AML over a 20-year period. They also gathered data on a subset of about 1K adult AML patients treated through clinical trials. The researchers then performed targeted gene sequencing on these patients to identify molecular differences.­

The SEER data showed a slightly elevated risk for death among men and a somewhat lower risk for death among patients with a higher household income. However, the strongest risk factor was the patient’s race, with black patients having a 40% higher mortality rate than white patients.

The genetic data from the clinical trial patients helped shed light on why the survival discrepancies may be occurring, showing significant differences in the frequency and impact of gene mutations in black patients compared to white patients. Specifically, many known gene mutations that respond to treatment in white patients may not respond to the same treatment in young black patients.

“These results show us that we need to rethink how we are treating black patients with AML,” said Dr. Eisfeld. “More research is required to identify the differences in AML by race before we can determine what the best treatments are.”

Dr. Eisfeld and colleagues are currently expanding upon their initial study to further understand the underlying mechanisms for the survival discrepancy and treatment response. This research is funded in part by the Leukemia Research Foundation.

About the Leukemia Research Foundation

The Leukemia Research Foundation, headquartered in Northfield, Illinois, is committed to funding promising blood cancer research projects worldwide and supporting people affected by blood cancers. Since its founding in 1946, more than $80M has been raised to pursue better treatments and the ultimate cure for all blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

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Kelsey Raftery

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