When Treated Alike, Black Patients with Multiple Myeloma Experience Better Outcomes Than Whites

Woman and doctor

Investigators at the MCW Cancer Center and Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research recently conducted a study to compare the survival rates of Black and white patients with multiple myeloma. Their findings, published in the Blood Cancer Journal, show a long history of health inequity–and offer new insights into effective treatment strategies.

By leveraging the SEER-Medicare database, investigators compared 20 years’ worth of patient data, including demographics, socioeconomic status, presentation factors, and treatment factors. Data showed that Black patients were less likely to receive the standard of care, even when their characteristics matched white patients. “Our findings reinforce the importance of equitable access to effective treatment modalities,” said the study’s principal investigator Jing Dong, PhD. “When treated similarly, five-year survival rates are significantly higher among Black patients with Multiple Myeloma as compared to whites. This is rarely seen in other cancer types.

Multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer found in plasma cells, is more common in Black populations. “It is well known that Black individuals have a greater risk of monoclonal gammopathy, the precursor condition to multiple myeloma,” said co-investigator Anita D’Souza, MD.

She notes that Black patients with multiple myeloma face additional disparities including access to novel therapies, stem cell transplants, and clinical trial utilization. Further research is needed to validate the findings, including taking a closer look at the biological mechanisms for disparities, and comparison of data in younger patients since the study examined individuals ≥ 65 years old at diagnosis.

“We have been looking at disparities in multiple myeloma for quite some time,” said Doug Rizzo, MD. “The unique methodology used in this study demonstrates how novel approaches help to strengthen and guide future research.” Dr. Rizzo noted that several multiple myeloma studies are underway at the MCW Cancer Center, including 18 open clinical trials and a Phase II investigator-initiated, multi-institutional trial.