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Published on October 26, 2021

Cone Health Presents on Racial Disparities in Cancer Survival at National Conference 

Research presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology meeting shows disparities can be eliminated. 


CHICAGO — Dr. Matthew Manning, chief of oncology, Cone Health, shared interventions that closed the gap between the survival rates of Black and white patients diagnosed with early-stage lung and breast cancer. 

According to the American Cancer Society, Black populations face the highest cancer death rate and shortest cancer survival rate of any other group in the U.S., as they face “greater obstacles to cancer prevention, detection, treatment and survival.”

On Oct. 25, Manning presented research at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Annual Meeting. The research identifies and addresses specific obstacles facing patient populations—like limited access to transportation or difficulty taking time off work without penalty—and intentionally examines how those obstacles vary by race.

"The bottom line is, unless we ask what happens when an appointment or milestone is missed, we just don't know what's going on, and the patient may never come back to us,” Manning said. 

Manning was a physician champion of the Accountability for Cancer through Undoing Racism and Equity (ACCURE) clinical trial, the first study designed to erase gaps in cancer treatment completion and survival among Black and white patient populations. ACCURE is an NIH-funded five-year collaboration between Cone Health, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Partnership Project, Inc., and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

By addressing obstacles that prevent patients from finishing radiation treatments for cancer, the ACCURE team noticed an improvement in five-year survival rates for all patients but also narrowed the survival gap between Black and white patients. For example, the methods improved breast cancer five-year survival rates from 89 percent for Black patients and 91 percent for white patients to 94 percent for both groups.

"Historically, Black and white patients had different survival rates after treatment, but that difference disappeared," said Manning. "We are now able to say that this intervention eliminated disparities in overall survival." 

Cone Health has taken steps to address many of these obstacles, including a free transportation service for patients who need rides to and from radiation therapy sessions. This service, recently featured in The Washington Post on Monday, has reduced missed treatments that could lower treatment effectiveness.

“Cone Health has a strong commitment to health equity,” said Dr. Martin Portillo, president and CMO, Cone Health Medical Group, CancerCare. “We strive to offer the highest quality personalized medical care to all of the communities that we serve, regardless of race or ethnicity. The ACCURE study, our community vaccinations and mobile medicine program all reflect this core commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Moving forward, the ACCURE team is considering other applications for their work, such as addressing disparities in pregnancy/maternal care. "We've shown it's possible to eliminate disparities in cancer treatment completion and that this change has the potential to close cancer survival gaps downstream," said Manning. "But we think the application can be much broader."