Participation in Clinical Trials

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

OCTOBER 23, 2017

I have written a number of times about the importance of clinical trials. Without them and without the willingness of people through the years to participate, we would have much less knowledge than we do about cancer or virtually any other treatments. We are all standing on their shoulders. It is a continuing problem to enlist people into trials, and it turns out that certain population groups are especially underrepresented.

It is easy to understand that people who live or receive their cancer care far from academic medical center or other larger facilities may hear less about these opportunities. It is a little more surprising to learn that elderly people, people of color, and even women in general are less likely to participate in available trails that might be helpful to them. I know that the Tuskeegee experiments have left a long and painful legacy, but that can only be part of the story. 

Clearly this is a problem because it suggests that information from trials is, at least sometimes, data that has actually only been tested on non-elderly white men. There may be differences between that group and others; we just don't know.

From WebMD comes this article:

Blacks, Elderly Missing From U.S. Cancer Trials

Women are also underrepresented, researchers find

Four 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.

Read this article to learn more.

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