Stomach cancer survival: Racial gaps ultimately vanish, study finds

February 3, 2013 | by Shawn Le

Prior studies by City of Hope researchers established that race plays a major role in gastric cancer. Asian-Americans have the highest incidence rate of the cancer, but also have a better survival rate. African-American patients have worse outcomes, and Caucasian patients fall in between.

Joseph Kim, M.D., found that racial disparities in stomach cancer survival disappear after a few years of survival. Joseph Kim, M.D., found that racial disparities in stomach cancer survival disappear after a few years of survival. (Photo credit: Walter Urie)

However, further research by Joseph Kim, M.D., a surgical oncologist at City of Hope who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers, has revealed that over time, the racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes for gastric cancer patients even out. The study findings were recently presented at the 2013 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco.

“We have a whole lot of evidence that shows gastric cancer survivorship is dependent on race or ethnicity,” said Kim. “In our current study, though, we found that if a patient survives beyond a certain time, that disparity disappears.” Kim analyzed the medical data of 25,728 gastric cancer patients in the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results database who underwent surgical treatment from 1988 through 2006. The research team calculated a three-year relative conditional survival score for patients who had survived one, two and three years from diagnosis – which was based on observed survival, expected survival, age, sex and race.

“At some point between two and a half to three years of survival, we saw that relative conditional survival was equivalent across all races,” said Kim. “Our findings are wholly unique in that before this study, no one has ever shown that disparities disappear.”

Kim said the results strongly suggest that gastric cancer survival is not just a simple matter of genetics, and he will conduct further studies that could shed more light on this issue.

“We’re going to tackle this from all viewpoints – genetics, social, behavioral, all factors,” he said.

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