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J Clin Oncol. 2016 Jun 10;34(17):2003-9. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.65.8716. Epub 2016 Apr 11.

Disparities in Use of Human Epidermal Growth Hormone Receptor 2-Targeted Therapy for Early-Stage Breast Cancer.

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All authors: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
All authors: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.



Trastuzumab is a key component of adjuvant therapy for stage I to III human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer. The rates and patterns of trastuzumab use have never been described in a population-based sample. The recent addition of HER2 information to the SEER-Medicare database offers an opportunity to examine patterns of trastuzumab use and to evaluate possible disparities in receipt of trastuzumab.


We examined a national cohort of Medicare beneficiaries with incident stage I to III HER2-positive breast cancer diagnosed in 2010 and 2011 (n = 1,362). We used insurance claims data to track any use of trastuzumab in the 12 months after diagnosis as well as to identify chemotherapy drugs used in partnership with trastuzumab. We used modified Poisson regression analysis to evaluate the independent effect of race on likelihood of receiving trastuzumab by controlling for clinical need, comorbidity, and community-level socioeconomic status.


Overall, 50% of white women and 40% of black women received some trastuzumab therapy. Among women with stage III disease, 74% of whites and 56% of blacks received trastuzumab. After adjustment for tumor characteristics, poverty, and comorbidity, black women were 25% less likely to receive trastuzumab within 1 year of diagnosis than white women (risk ratio, 0.745; 95% CI, 0.60 to 0.93).


Approxemately one half of patients 65 years of age and older with stage I to III breast cancer do not receive trastuzumab-based therapy, which includes many with locally advanced disease. Significant racial disparities exist in the receipt of this highly effective therapy. Further research that identifies barriers to use and increases uptake of trastuzumab could potentially improve recurrence and survival outcomes in this population, particularly among minority women.

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