The Consequences Of Blacks Missing From U.S. Cancer Clinical Trials

female doctor shaking patients handFour out of five participants in cancer clinical trials are white, a discrepancy that calls into question whether other races and ethnicities are receiving good cancer treatment, researchers say.

Women and the elderly also are underrepresented in clinical trials, according to the new findings.

Prior studies have shown that the effectiveness of cancer treatment can vary based on a person’s race, gender and age, said lead researcher Dr. Narjust Duma.

Despite this, clinical trials have failed to successfully recruit a diverse patient population upon whom to test new drugs and therapies, said Duma, a hematology/oncology fellow at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn.

“All the data we’re using to guide cancer treatment is for one type of patient,” she said.

Duma undertook this study after a conversation with a black lung cancer patient about possible chemotherapy treatments.

“He asked, ‘Where are the numbers about me?'” Duma recalled. “Where are the numbers about African-Americans? What are the chances we respond to treatment?”

A cursory look at chemotherapy research revealed that only a handful of blacks had been included in clinical trials involving hundreds of people, Duma said.