Confronting Disparities in Lung Cancer

illustration of lungs with inflamed tumor highlighted

New Brunswick, N.J., November 2, 2021 –According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer deaths despite the fact that survival rates have been improving over the past decade. However, lung cancer disproportionately impacts Black men more than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States and in New Jersey.

Sharon R. Pine, PhD is a resident member of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and associate professor of Pharmacology and Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Pine is also a member of the Cancer Health Equity Center of Excellence in partnership with the Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute, and studies racial health disparities in lung cancer. She shares more about the topic.

Understanding Barriers

Compared with all other racial and ethnic groups in the United States, Black people are disproportionally more affected by lung cancer, both in terms of incidence and survival. Although smoking is a main etiological factor associated with lung cancer, it does not contribute much to these disparities. Factors contributing to disparities may inc lude socio-economic status, access to healthcare, geographic location, and work exposures, among others, although the precise mechanisms are unclear.

Research to Create Change

At Rutgers Cancer Institute, researchers aim to clarify the underlying tumor biology and varying cancer-promoting exposures between Blacks and whites that might contribute to lung cancer health disparities. Recent research has demonstrated that, while lung tumor driver mutations in the DNA are mostly similar across racial and ethnic groups, there are some key differences that are important to consider for cancer therapy. Unfortunately, Black patients are under-represented in cancer research studies and clinical trials.

The overall objective of our research is to increase the number of Black lung cancer patients who are eligible for targeted therapy, where the therapy targets their unique tumor cells. We have found certain DNA mutations that are more common in lung tumors from Blacks than whites, and we are studying ways to better treat tumors that have these mutations.

Take Action Now

Everyone can educate themselves and help spread awareness about cancer  prevention, screening, and cancer disparities to help improve inequalities in lung cancer care. There are also actions that Black patients can take right now, such as talking with your doctor about lung cancer risk and lung cancer screening eligibility.  Working together we can all make a difference in the health of our communities.

Learn more about the Cancer Health Equity Center of Excellence in partnership with the Rutgers School of Public Health, which works to address cancer health disparities through research and program initiatives.



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