New brain tumour research shows link between survival and ethnicity

New brain tumour research shows link between survival and ethnicity
© iStock/FG Trade

New brain tumour research by Kings College London, UK, has been presented at the National Cancer Research Institute festival, identifying a link between ethnicity and brain tumour survival rates.

Brain tumour research is relatively unstudied compared to other cancers and this report is the first of its kind. The study looks at the impact of ethnicity on brain tumour survival. It found that white British people who have been diagnosed with a malignant primary brain tumour appear to be more likely to die within one year than patients from at least four other ethnic groups.

“Brain tumours are under-researched compared to other cancers, and until now, no study has investigated the impact of a person’s ethnicity on brain tumour survival using information on patients in the whole of England. The improved and detailed cancer data captured by the National Disease Registration Service now within NHS Digital provided a good opportunity to explore the impact of varied ethnic groups on brain tumour survival for the whole of England,” Commented Hiba Wanis (MPhil), PhD student and research assistant, Centre for Cancer, Society & Public Health, King’s College London.

How ethnicity plays a part in brain tumour survival

Ms Wanis focussed on data from 24,319 adult patients living in England who had been diagnosed with a malignant primary brain tumour between 2012 and 2017. She calculated the risk of death for white British (including any other white and white Irish), other ethnic (including all mixed ethnic groups and any other ethnic groups), Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, black African and black Caribbean patients, up to one year following diagnoses.

The research found that brain tumours were diagnosed more often in white British people, but a higher percentage died within one year than individuals from other ethnic groups. For example, between 2012 and 2017, a total of 13,339 white British people died from brain tumours, representing 64% of these patients. Whereas 19 people of Bangladeshi origin (63%), 166 (52%) of Indian origin, 533 (52%) of other white origins, 95 (51%) of Pakistani origin, and 280 (41.5%) of other ethnic groups had died within one year of diagnosis.

Further brain tumour research found that people who were categorised as ‘other ethnic’ were 30% less likely to die within one year than white British people. It also showed that patients from three other ethnic categories had a decreased risk of death when compared to white British patients – 16% for Indian, 17% for other white and 19% for unknown.

Other factors should be considered

This study shows a correlation between ethnicity and survival rates; however, there are other factors to be considered that may play a role.

“It is probably too early to speculate on what may lie behind these differences, but a number of factors may be involved. These include how early people ask their doctors about symptoms, how early in the disease a diagnosis is made, better reporting, lifestyle and cultural factors, deprivation, tumour characteristics and behaviour, and treatment options,” added Wanis.

Wanis is discussing with colleagues how they can investigate these factors in more detail and complete further brain tumour research. Working closely with patient representatives to collect additional data, the team will explore survival differences further, including understanding the accuracy of death registration for patients from ethnic minority groups compared to others.

“This new study is not only the first to investigate the impact of ethnicity on brain tumour survival but also the first to consider the different types of brain tumours across patients in England. As the quantity and quality of data have significantly improved in recent years, the researchers have been able to carry out a detailed analysis, and the results help to fill in the gaps in what is currently an under-researched area of cancer. However, further research is needed to consider other factors that may play a role in these differences, such as a patient’s lifestyle and how early they received their diagnosis. Once explored further, the findings could be vital for doctors to provide appropriate information to patients on their prognosis.” Says Michael Jenkinson, Chair of the NCRI Brain Group and Professor of Neurosurgery and Surgical Trials at the University of Liverpool, UK, who is not involved with the research.

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