MGH, BMC Study Looks At The Role Race Plays In Treating Breast Cancer

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center have been awarded a $350,000 grant from pharmaceutical maker Pfizer to study how race is a factor in treating cancer and surviving it.

BMC Site Principal Investigator Dr. Naomi Ko is among the researchers working to reduce racial disparities among cancer patients.

“It’s been a perpetual problem in breast cancer where black women have a death rate that’s almost 40% higher than white women,” Dr. Ko said. “And this disparity has been really troubling for a long time, for decades now.”

She, along with Principal Investigator Dr. Erica Warner, ScD MPH, and Co-Investigator Dr. Beverly Moy, MD, MPH — both with MGH — are conducting focus groups to learn from black women about their breast cancer journey over the course of a two-year project.

“By doing these focus groups we’re hoping to collect as much information as we can to create some education materials for patients and providers. So, the first part of this grant application is to really look at and listen to the patients,” Dr. Ko said.

The study’s primary focus is on post-treatment care for black breast cancer survivors.

“So, what we’re really interested in looking at is trying to figure out how to meet the need of black women who have survived their breast cancer diagnosis,” Dr. Ko said. “And we’re trying to ensure that they get all of the right follow-up care.”

The study also found that women with insurance and better access to care are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage. Detecting cancer early can increase the chances of survival.

Dr. Ko went on to say that Triple Negative Breast Cancers are more prevalent in black women. “So, trying to identify better treatments for more aggressive breast cancers is always something that’s very, very important,” she said.

WBZ NewsRadio's Laurie Kirby (@LaurieWBZ) reports

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(Photo: Mario Jarjour/WBZ NewsRadio)

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