The use of PET-CT imaging gives doctors the best possible picture of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and this accurate imaging helps to match patients with the best treatments. Unfortunately, not every NSCLC patient gets the recommended PET-CT imaging. Now a University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows an important predictor of PET-CT use: African American patients were only about half as likely as non-Hispanic whites to receive this important imaging; Hispanics received this imaging about 70 percent as frequently as non-Hispanic whites.

“We started from the perspective of outcomes: we know that Black and Hispanic lung cancer patients tend to not do as well as non-Hispanic whites. We wondered if there could also be differences in how these groups are imaged at diagnosis,” says Rustain Morgan, MD, CU Cancer Center investigator and assistant professor in the CU School of Medicine Department of Radiology.

The study, with co-authors Sana Karam, MD, PhD, and Cathy Bradley, PhD, looked at PET-CT use and outcomes of 28,881 non-Hispanic Whites, 3,123 African Americans, and 1,907 Hispanics diagnosed with NSCLC between 2007 and 2015. To focus on potential ethnic/racial differences, the study controlled for factors including education level and socioeconomics.

“Our study showed a couple things,” Morgan says. “First, it reaffirmed that patients who are imaged with PET-CT at diagnosis have better cancer-specific survival. Second, it showed there is a significant difference in who gets the recommended PET-CT at diagnosis. And third, it leads to more questions, like what is driving this difference and are these disparities in adherence to imaging guidelines present in other cancers.”

Read more from the University of Colorado and find the study at the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.