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Black cancer patients 71% more likely to experience heart damage from chemotherapy

CANCER DIGEST – April 14, 2023 – An analysis of data from 24 studies involving 683,749 patients, found that the odds of black patients or those with African ancestry experiencing cardiovascular side effects and complications following chemotherapy for cancer, were 71 percent higher compared with white patients.

The study led by graduate medical student Wondewossen Gebeyehu, at the University of Toronto, also showed a higher risk of congestive heart failure in these patients. The results were presented at the annual American College of Cardiology conference held in Washington, D.C. April 14-16.

“Unfortunately, we were not surprised [by the findings],", Gebeyehu said in a press release. "Research shows that Black patients have poorer outcomes for almost every disease. In this case, one could have expected that the differences would be minimal since it is the chemotherapy that is injuring the heart, and we would expect the same chemotherapy to be given to black and non-black patients with a given cancer. However, this systematic review indicates that the inequities in health outcomes extends to the odds of cardiotoxicity after cancer treatment.”

One theory as to why this disparity in chemotherapy toxicity should occur, Gebeyehu suggested that underrepresentation of black people in clinical trials may lead to treatments being developed that are not as effective, or which may be riskier for black people. In any case the research team concluded that the results show the need for further investigation to determine underlying factors contributing to the disparities with the aim of reducing them.

"For clinicians, it is important to be aware of these higher odds of cardiotoxicity faced by Black patients," said Gebeyehu, "understanding these disparities will hopefully lead to clinicians having more conversations around reducing cardiovascular risk associated with chemotherapy and targeted efforts to cater to groups at higher risk."

As for patients, Gebeyehu said, "The most important message for patients is that they should not avoid chemotherapy, as the most important thing is making sure they get the best cancer treatment possible, and studies already show black patients may get less optimal cancer treatments."

Sources: American College of Cardiology press release

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