Investigating Racial Disparities in Pediatric Acute Leukemia
Cancer takes the lives of more children than any other disease and leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer. African-American children with leukemia die more often than children of other races with leukemia. The reasons for this difference between African-American and Caucasian children are unknown. While there are many possible causes of this difference, we have found in previous research that African-American children come to the hospital sicker than Caucasian children prior to the start of chemotherapy.
We will study if there are differences in the vital signs and blood tests for African-American children when they come to the hospital. We know that these children are more likely to have public insurance and lower parental incomes, which may make it harder for them to come to the hospital. In other diseases, other aspects of a person's background, such as parents' education level, have also been shown to influence the risk of death and we plan to study the role of these other socioeconomic factors. We also plan to study if there are differences in the leukemia itself that make it grow faster or resist treatment more, causing African-American children to become sicker and die. We can answer these questions with information that is already available from children's hospitals across the United States. Making sure that all children with cancer are able to get the best possible treatment as soon as possible is as important as finding new treatments for children with cancer.
"The Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Young Investigator (ALSF YI) grant will allow me to delve deeper into the factors that contribute to survival differences between black and white children with leukemia. The insights from this work will be used to extend our previous successes in curing patients with leukemia to all patient populations." - Lena Winestone, MD