Racial bias and stereotyping are common when researchers are recruiting people for cancer clinical trials, a new study finds.
"Examples of the stereotypes we observed included perceptions that African Americans were less knowledgeable about cancer research studies, less likely to participate due to altruism, or simply less likely to complete all facets of the research study," said study first author Soumya Niranjan, an assistant professor from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"These and other examples of bias based on stereotypes of potential minority participants raise concerns that nonwhites may be offered fewer opportunities to participate in cancer research studies," she added.
A diversity of patients in clinical trials is important so that the results will apply to the general population, but the proportion of racial/ethnic minorities in cancer clinical trials is lower than the proportion in the U.S. general population, the researchers said.
To examine whether this is due to bias among researchers, Niranjan and colleagues interviewed 91 cancer center leaders, clinical trial principal investigators, referring clinicians, and research staff at five U.S. cancer centers.
There were several findings:
The study participants said language barriers and other factors made communication with potential minority clinical trial participants difficult, and several said they didn't believe that potential minority patients were ideal candidates after they were screened for cancer clinical trials.
Some participants said clinicians' time constraints and negative perceptions of minority study participants were challenges. When discussing clinical trials with minority patients, respondents said they often had to dispel misconceptions to build trust.
Some respondents said race was considered irrelevant when screening and recruiting potential minority participants for clinical trials, according to the study published recently in the journal Cancer.
"By no means does this study indicate that all research and health care professionals are biased or that all minorities are being deprived of opportunities to participate in cancer research studies," said study leader Dr. Raegan Durant, an associate professor at UAB's Division of Preventative Medicine.
"However, the long-term significance of our findings rests in the notion that biases potentially exist in virtually all forms of human interaction, and recruitment for cancer research studies is no exception," Durant said in a journal news release. "Once we acknowledge the potential presence of this bias in this context, we can better identify it, measure it, and begin to think about how best to address it."
The American Cancer Society has more on clinical trials.
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