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Say It Isn’t So In 2010—African American Multiple Myeloma Patients Face Therapy Discrimination

Posted on May 27 2010 by Pat Killingsworth | 1,495 views

The Medical College of Wisconsin published an important press release this week.  The title:  African-Americans and women are less likely to undergo bone marrow transplantation.

This single paragraph, found near the end of the release, sums up the disturbing results:

The researchers’ analysis revealed that HCT is more frequently used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma in Caucasians than in African-Americans. Specifically, Caucasians are 40 percent more likely to undergo HCT for these cancers than African-Americans. African-Americans have lower rates of HCT using either their own bone marrow cells or the cells from a donor, indicating that donor availability cannot fully explain the racial differences seen in treatment with HCT. Lack of an available donor is a recognized problem for some minorities. Also, men are 10 percent more likely than women to receive HCT using their own bone marrow cells for reasons that cannot be explained by age or cancer severity.

To clarify, the report uses the acronym HCT (hematopoietic stem cell transplantation) in the same way I use SCT (stem cell transpantation).  It is no secret I am not a big fan of stem cell transplants for multiple myeloma patients—especially as an initial front line therapy.  With the stunning development of a number of affective, anti-myeloma novel therapy agents, I believe SCT’s are an important therapy option for multiple myeloma patients, best used later in the therapy process—or as a last resort.

My opinion is a growing, yet still minority view among myeloma docs. SCT is still the “standard of care,” therapy of choice at a majority of cancer centers. To learn African American’s are 40% less likely to undergo a SCT isn’t surprising to me—but it’s sad. Class and racial discrimination, plain and simple.

I commented in the past about how few African American’s I would see in Mayo Clinic waiting rooms. OK—so that might be explained away because of the large, majority white population you find in Minnesota. But I am now treated at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. Lots of black residents here. I have yet to see a single African American sitting in the transplant center’s waiting room—or in the infusion center’s waiting room, for that matter.

This angers me, plain and simple. If you would like to read the entire release about this study, go to African American’s are less likely to undergo bone marrow transplantation.

Feel good and keep smiling! Pat

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