Experts at Imperial College London have urged breast cancer researchers to investigate how a person's ethnicity influences their response to treatment and its outcome.
In a piece of comment published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, they write that there is evidence that particular medications may benefit people from one ethnic group more than others because of differences in their genetic makeup.
The experts highlight the fact that most key trials looking at treatments for breast cancer have been carried out in predominantly white populations in Europe, North America and Australasia.
They argue that other populations may not respond to a medicine in the same way as the white populations in such trials.
They believe that participants' ethnicity should be recorded during clinical trials, and analyses should be carried out to see where there are any differences in how patients from particular ethnic groups respond to a particular therapy.
The researchers even refer to recent studies that showed that people with a particular genotype responded better than others to a drug called trasztuzumab, which is commonly used to treat people with breast cancer that is HER-2 positive.
"Everyone responds differently to treatment and it's often very difficult to predict how well someone will respond to a particular drug. However, evidence is now emerging that shows how your genes might influence whether or not a particular treatment can help you," said Dr. Carlo Palmieri, from the Division of Surgery, Oncology, Reproductive Biology and Anaesthetics at Imperial College London and one of the authors of the piece.
"There are small genetic differences between people from different ethnic backgrounds and it is really important that we find out whether these genetic differences mean that certain drugs perform well in people from certain ethnic groups but not in others. It's only by doing this that we can make sure each individual receives the best possible care," added Dr. Palmieri.