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Black, Hispanic cancer clinical trial enrollment rises, both still underrepresented

Black, Hispanic cancer clinical trial enrollment rises, both still underrepresented
While Black and Hispanic participation in cancer-related clinical trials has improved, a gap remains, researchers said in a new study. File Photo by JPC-PROD/Shutterstock

Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Black and Hispanic participation in various cancer clinical trials has increased in recent years, but both populations remain underrepresented, researchers said in a study published Monday in the journal Cancer.

Black and Hispanic patients were more likely now to participate in breast, lung and prostate cancer trials from 2015-2019 than they were to participate in trials from 2000-2004, according to the analysis of data from the National Cancer Institute.

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The study found that women and older people also are underrepresented in trials for some types of cancer.

Inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds can show whether or not treatments are safe and effective for people with different characteristics, researchers said.

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"Our article indicates that the disparity for clinical enrollment in NCI clinical trials has narrowed for minorities, but further efforts are still needed," lead study author Dr. Juan F. Javier-Desloges, a urologist at the University of California-San Diego, said in a press release.

The new study, using data from NCI's Clinical Data Update System, which contains data from the trials sponsored by the agency, compared trial participation to cancer incidence rates.

Researchers reviewed data on 242,720 participants, 81.3% of whom were non-Hispanic White, 8.7% were Black, 4.8% were Hispanic and 2.8% were of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.

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The analysis found that Black and Hispanic patients were more likely to participate in breast cancer trials from 2015-2019 than they were from 2000-2004, but were underrepresented in colorectal, lung and prostate cancer trials.

Older patients were also underrepresented in breast, colorectal, and lung cancer trials in comparisons of the two time periods, researchers said, and women were underrepresented in colorectal and lung cancer trials.

The study follows a growing body of evidence suggesting race and ethnicity could be key factors in predicting how patients will respond to a drug.

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For example, researchers at an academic medical center in New York City found in a 2015 study that angiotensin-converting-enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors, were associated with significantly worse health outcomes in Black patients than in White patients.

A study last year by University of Alabama at Birmingham study found that racial bias persists in recruitment for cancer clinical trials.Dr. Reagan Durant, an assistant professor at UAB's Division of Preventative Medicine and lead author on the 2020 study, said at the time that the significance of his findings "rests in the notion that biases potentially exist in all forms of human interaction, and recruitment for cancer research studies is not exception."

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"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," Durant said.

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