Groups Partner to Increase Diversity in Cancer Clinical Trials

In Clinical Studies News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Lisa Boylan


Two associations are banding together to seek solutions that will increase diversity in cancer clinical trials to accurately represent populations that are more affected by cancer and improve overall patient care.

Despite the well-known importance of clinical trial results, racial and ethnic minority populations continue to be underrepresented in cancer treatment trials when compared with the overall population of patients with cancer.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology and Association of Community Cancer Centers are teaming up on an initiative to encourage broader participation in cancer treatment trials to better reflect the diversity of people who are at risk of developing the disease. The groups recently announced a joint call to action to the cancer community to submit novel strategies and practical solutions in a Request for Ideas.

ACCC President Randall A. Oyer, M.D., and ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, M.D., have complementary overarching goals that spurred the collaboration. Oyer is focused on using community oncology to close the known gap in research and diverse patient populations, and Pierce is committed to ensuring all patients have access to equitable cancer care.

According to ASCO and ACCC, research backs up the need for the push, with recent findings revealing that only 4 to 6 percent of trial participants are Black and 3 to 6 percent are Hispanic. Blacks and Hispanics represent 15 percent and 13 percent of all patients with cancer, respectively.

That disparity undermines care, Pierce said. “If clinical trials don’t represent the individuals we treat, including those from racial and ethnic minority populations, the state of science suffers and patients with life-threatening conditions may miss out on the best—and perhaps only—treatment option for their condition,” she said.

Breaking Down Barriers

Significant challenges exist, which will need to be addressed in the submissions. Issues that prevent these patient populations from participating in clinical trials include provider bias, access-to-care obstacles, a lack of awareness about trials, mistrust in the healthcare system, and language and cultural issues.

The hope is that the solutions and strategies that are identified in the program will increase diversity and lead to opportunities for care teams treating all disease states—not only cancer—across the entire healthcare spectrum.

Recognizing the complexity of the factors that have led to the disparities in cancer research, Oyer said, ASCO and ACCC are looking for ideas that will reflect the best current thinking and expertise from the entire cancer community.

“By working together, we can significantly extend the reach of this effort and help ensure that we pursue promising strategies that have a lasting and meaningful impact,” he said.

ASCO and ACCC are accepting submissions through August 24.