O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. (Courtesy Photo/cancer.gov and logo)

By AFRO Staff

New research spearheaded by the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is seeking to improve Black participation in cancer related clinical trials.

Investigators at the university along with other partners at the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer,  Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Augusta University will try to determine the barriers that prevent African-American patients in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia from participating in clinical trials. The study, “Studying Trial Determinants of Success,” will also seek to provide solutions for surmounting those barriers.

Those answers could have a nationwide impact. Participation in clinical trials by cancer patients in the United States is extremely low — about 8 percent — but even lower among patients of color.  African Americans, for example, comprise only an estimated 6 percent of enrollees in clinical trials.  

However, diversity in testing is necessary to improving health outcomes among all groups, experts say.

“Diverse representation in clinical trials is essential to find treatments that are effective for all populations, including people from various racial, ethnic and geographic backgrounds,” said Monica Baskin, professor in the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine and associate director for the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, in a statement. “Good representation in trials also allows researchers to better understand patterns of difference in health and sickness based on backgrounds and behaviors that may provide more effective treatment and/or prevention.”

For the African-American community, specifically, clinical trial participation is needed because of the disparities in the incidences and mortality rates associated with cancer.  For example, the rate of lung cancer in African-American men is about 30 percent higher than in White men. And, Black men and women are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than any other group. 

“Increasing the rate of minority participation in cancer clinical trials is a pressing need and requires a multipronged approach to accomplish this task,” said Soumya J. Niranjan, assistant professor in the UAB Department of Health Services Administration and STRIDES co-investigator. “Through this project, we seek to better understand specific barriers and facilitators to minority participation in lung cancer clinical trials from both patients and provider stakeholders, followed by potential multilevel interventions.”

The study is supported by a $350,000 grant from Genentech’s Health Equity Innovation Fund and Bristol Myers Squibb.

“We are thrilled that the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is partnering with us on STRIDES,” said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, co-founder, president and CEO of GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer. “They will bring their deep understanding of lung cancer research and knowledge of access issues in communities of color to this work so we can better understand and address barriers to clinical trial participation among the Black community.”