2020 LCRF Research Grant on Disparities in Lung Cancer
Marjory Charlot, MD, MPH
University of North Carolina
Understanding the immune landscape of non-small cell lung cancer in African Americans
In the U.S. there are 18% more deaths among Black men with lung cancer compared to White men with lung cancer. Recent advances in the treatment of lung cancer through cancer research have led to significant improvements in survival. However, Black patients are less likely to be invited to participate in cancer research and as a result are less likely to have access to state-of-the art cancer treatments. For example, immune checkpoint inhibitors, also known as immunotherapy, have drastically changed the treatment of lung cancer by using the body’s own immune system to kill cancer cells. Immunotherapy was first studied in clinical trials before its use in the real world, but unfortunately, Black patients were underrepresented in these studies. Having a better understanding of lung cancer that includes the Black population and identifying opportunities to engage Black patients in lung cancer research will likely help to reduce excess lung cancer deaths experienced by Black men. For this project funded by the Lung Cancer Research Foundation, we propose to study (1) the immune landscape in tumor samples obtained from Black patients with lung cancer as well as (2) strategies to enhance participation of Black patients with lung cancer in cancer research.
From an interview with Dr. Charlot in April 2021:
“I agree with others that it is unclear why Black patients with lung cancer tend to be diagnosed at a younger age,” Dr. Charlot explained. “It is also unclear why Black men in particular have disproportionate mortality from lung cancer compared to other racial and ethnic groups and compared to women with lung cancer.”
“I believe that we need to start evaluating the influence of the social determinants of health, specifically structural racism, to help guide our investigation of why these racial and gender differences in lung cancer incidence and mortality disproportionately impact Black men.”