News Release

Real world data shows impact of immunotherapy in populations underrepresented in clinical trials, according to JNCCN study

Results are encouraging regarding the benefit of immunotherapy across racial and ethnic groups, but also reinforce need to include more Black and Hispanic people in cancer clinical trials and highlight the importance of equitable treatment delivery for cl

Peer-Reviewed Publication

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

JNCCN Dec 2023 Cover


November 2023 Edition of JNCCN now available at

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Credit: NCCN

PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA [December 11, 2023] — New research in the December 2023 issue of JNCCN—Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network finds patients treated with first-line immunotherapy for advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) showed similar results in terms of survival, progression-free survival, and treatment duration, regardless of race or ethnicity, even with differences in income and insurance. The clinical investigators focused on patients in under-represented groups who were typically less likely to be included in the immunotherapy clinical trials that have been conducted to date. They analyzed results from 248 patients treated with pembrolizumab over a 9-year period between January 1, 2013 and June 1, 2022, with non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and Non-Hispanic White patients each accounting for an approximately equal percentage. Median overall survival was 16.8 to 26.3 months, similar to results previously reported in large prospective clinical trials.

“There has not been enough information on how immunotherapy affected racially- and ethnically-marginalized patients with lung cancer in the past, because they were not well-represented in most previous studies,” explained lead investigator Matthew Lee, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Montefiore Einstein Comprehensive Cancer Center (MECCC). “The findings from this study could change how we take care of patients and plan future lung cancer studies to better include all patients. While immunotherapy has significantly improved survival for lung cancer patients overall, differences exist in its administration among individuals of different races and ethnicities. This finding could potentially promote the use of immunotherapy in more diverse patient populations.”

The study results included other notable findings. While race, ethnicity, income, and insurance status did not statistically impact survival, the investigators were surprised to find that higher BMI was associated with longer progression-free survival and shorter time to treatment discontinuation. They also determined that a worse ECOG Performance Status—a standardized tool for measuring how capably a patient can take care of themself, do regular activities, or move around—was significantly more likely to result in poorer outcomes.

“This study highlights the potential importance of adjusting treatment approaches in clinical practice, particularly for patients with a poor ECOG performance status,” said senior researcher Haiying Cheng, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology and Member of the MECCC Cancer Therapeutics Research Program. “There is a clear need for future studies to include underrepresented patient groups in clinical trials to validate these findings and to better guide clinical practice.”

"This retrospective study provides valuable real-world information on the clinical outcomes of patients from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups undergoing immunotherapy for metastatic NSCLC,” commented Debora S. Bruno MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Medicine - Case Western Reserve University; Medical Director, Dahms Clinical Research Unit, University Hospitals - Cleveland Medical Center, Seidman Cancer Center at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in this research. “Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic individuals were gravely underrepresented in registrational immunotherapy trials for lung cancer. As a result, there is a paucity of prospective trial data on the efficacy and safety of this class of antineoplastic agents for such patients.”

Dr. Bruno, a Member of the NCCN Guidelines® Panel for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer/Mesothelioma/Thymomas and Thymic Carcinomas, continued: “While it is certainly reassuring to see a lack of real world racial and ethnic disparities in clinical outcomes when patients receive adequate therapy for their disease, we must continue and strive for equitable representation for all patients in prospective oncology clinical trials."

To read the entire study, visit Complimentary access to “Similar Efficacy Observed for First-Line Immunotherapy in Ethnic Minority Patients With Metastatic NSCLC” is available until March 10, 2024.

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About JNCCN—Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

More than 25,000 oncologists and other cancer care professionals across the United States read JNCCN—Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. This peer-reviewed, indexed medical journal provides the latest information about innovation in translational medicine, and scientific studies related to oncology health services research, including quality care and value, bioethics, comparative and cost effectiveness, public policy, and interventional research on supportive care and survivorship. JNCCN features updates on the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), review articles elaborating on guidelines recommendations, health services research, and case reports highlighting molecular insights in patient care. JNCCN is published by Harborside/BroadcastMed. Visit To inquire if you are eligible for a FREE subscription to JNCCN, visit Follow JNCCN on Twitter @JNCCN.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) is a not-for-profit alliance of leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. NCCN is dedicated to improving and facilitating quality, effective, equitable, and accessible cancer care so all patients can live better lives. The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) provide transparent, evidence-based, expert consensus recommendations for cancer treatment, prevention, and supportive services; they are the recognized standard for clinical direction and policy in cancer management and the most thorough and frequently-updated clinical practice guidelines available in any area of medicine. The NCCN Guidelines for Patients® provide expert cancer treatment information to inform and empower patients and caregivers, through support from the NCCN Foundation®. NCCN also advances continuing education, global initiatives, policy, and research collaboration and publication in oncology. Visit for more information.

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