Asian Cancer Survivers Live Longer than Caucasians

Non-small cell lung cancer chemotherapy treatment in Asians works better than Caucasians

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new report says Asian patients live longer than Caucasian patients both before and after the treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is usually caused by smoking. A recent review of 35 years of studies indicates that during single, double or triple drug chemotherapy, Asians have a longer overall survival.

Unfortunately, 40 percent of new NSCLC diagnoses are in stage four, the most advanced stage, and these patients are facing chemotherapy.

"Race plays a role in fighting off cancer."

Dr. Ross Soo, senior consultant in the Department of Hematology-Oncology at the National University Hospital in Singapore, reports scientists already know that Asian patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)  have a longer overall survival than Caucasian patients when both groups are treated with chemotherapy.

Soo says what wasn't known was whether the same could be said when comparing a single drug or a combination of drugs used in the chemotherapy treatment. It also wasn't known whether the targeted area somehow just worked better in Asians.

In the study, Soo and colleagues analyzed 35 years of published studies in which chemo was given to patients in advanced stages of NSCLC. He reports the findings that Asian patients indeed had a longer survival and also a higher chance of tumor shrinkage no matter how many chemotherapy drugs given in the first-line setting.

Soo says that  Asian patients lived longer than Caucasian patients both before and after the treatment protocol used targeted therapy such as gefitinib and erlotinib. It doesn't matter which treatment course was taken, Asians simply survive a little bit longer than Caucasians.

For all types of chemotherapy over the last 35 years, Asian patients experienced median overall survival (OS) of 10.1 months while Caucasian patients overall survival was 8.0 months.

For treatments using only one drug, the median OS was 9.9 months for Asians while it was 6.8 months for whites. For treatments using two drugs, median OS was 10.4 months for Asians and 8.6 months for whites. For combinations of three or more drugs, median OS was 9.4 months for Asians and 8.0 months for whites.

In light of these findings, Soo recommends considering ethnic differences in survival and response to chemo should be considered prior to treatment.

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Review Date: 
June 1, 2011
Last Updated:
June 6, 2011