Study Explores Racial Disparity in Colon Cancer

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ANN ARBOR, Mich.—African-Americans with colon cancer are half as likely as Caucasian patients to have a type of colon cancer that is linked to better outcomes. The finding may provide insight into why African-Americans are more likely to die of colon cancer than Caucasians with the same stage of disease.

The population-based study of 503 people with colon cancer found that 14 percent of Caucasians and 7 percent of African-Americans had a genetic marker called microsatellite instability, or MSI. These types of tumors are known to be resistant to the chemotherapy drug 5FU. Yet, even without chemotherapy, these patients tend to have better outcomes.

“We know that patients with MSI colon cancer do better without chemotherapy. But these improved survival benefits are limited among African-Americans with colon cancer,” said lead study author John Carethers, MD, John G. Searle Professor and Chair of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Results of the study appear in the journal PLOS ONE.

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