ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

CUNY Faculty Examines Ethnic Disparities in Genomic Sequencing

Dr. Levi Waldron, professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy recently published a report evaluating the generalizability of findings from cancer genomics studies to racial minorities. The work was published in JAMA Oncology.

[Dr. Levi Waldron]

This study was conducted to determine the racial distribution among samples sequenced within The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and if there were a deficit of samples needed to detect moderately common mutational frequencies in racial minorities.

This was a retrospective review of individual patient data from The Cancer Genome Atlas data portal, accessed in July 2015. The Atlas comprises samples from a wide array of institutions primarily across the United States. Samples from 10 of the 31 currently available tumor types were analyzed, comprising 5,729 samples from the approximately 11,000 available.

Of the 5,729 samples, 77 percent (n = 4389) were from white individuals, 12 percent (n = 660) were from black individuals, 3 percent (n = 173) were from Asian individuals, 3 percent (n = 149) were from Hispanic individuals, and less than 0.5 percent combined were from patients of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native, or American Indian descent. This over-represents white patients compared with the U.S. population and under-represents primarily Asian and Hispanic patients.

The absolute sample size of all minority groups is inadequate to capture even relatively common somatic mutations that are specific to under-represented groups. Despite the important benefits in patient outcomes that continue to be gained from genomic sequencing, dedicated efforts are needed to avoid widening the already pervasive gap in cancer health care disparities.