WEDNESDAY, Oct. 14, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Among women with locally advanced breast cancer who undergo the same class of chemotherapy, race doesn't affect the odds of having no sign of disease at surgery, a new study finds.
Having no sign of the disease is considered a good sign that bodes well for a woman's prognosis, although it's not a guarantee that the cancer has vanished for good, the study authors noted.
"Our findings confirm [that having no sign of the disease] is a strong prognostic indicator and a surrogate for good survival, despite a patient's race, and that it's vital we continue to strive towards achieving this milestone for all women with breast cancer," said study co-author Dr. Mariana Chavez-MacGregor, a medical oncology fellow at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. "The study also mandates that we continue to research the differences across races in breast cancer."
Researchers know that there are racial disparities when it comes to breast cancer. While black women are less likely to develop breast cancer than white women, their death rate is 37 percent higher. The death rate is also increased in Hispanic women, studies have found.
It is unclear why the disparities exist, and researchers continue to try to determine whether it has something to do with access to health care and screening or variations in the tumors between women of different races.
The new study by Chavez-MacGregor and colleagues at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer included 2,074 patients diagnosed and treated for stage II and III breast cancer. The average age of the women was 50, and they all received neoadjuvant anthracycline- and taxane-based chemotherapy.
According to the researchers, who were to report their findings at the 2009 Breast Cancer Symposium held Oct. 8 to 10 in San Francisco, there was no statistical difference in the percentages of patients who reached what is known as "pathological complete response." The rate was 12.3 percent in white patients, 12.5 percent in black patients, 14.2 percent in Hispanic patients and 11.5 percent in patients of other races.
Overall survival rates for five years were 79 percent in whites, 57 percent in blacks, 79 percent in Hispanics and 84 percent in other races, the study authors noted.
Learn more about breast cancer from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.