MAY 21, 2021 10:38 AM PDT

How to address low representation of Black Americans in cancer trials

The Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania (ACC) has succeeded in more than doubling the enrollment of Black patients into cancer clinical trials following a five-year community outreach plan. The success of the community engagement efforts, which increased patient enrollment of Black participants from 12 to 24%, will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting on June 5. 

Black Americans have typically had low representation in cancer research, exemplifying yet another health inequity that affects access to cancer research and treatment. Although Black individuals account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, a mere 5% of Black patients with cancer are enrolled in clinical trials. 

"An important goal of the Abramson Cancer Center is to serve and engage our community --and that includes improving access to clinical trials for all patients," said senior author Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the ACC and vice president for Cancer Programs in the University of Pennsylvania Health System. "Aligning the number of Black patients with cancer we care for with the number enrolled in our trials is how we can help bring more equitable care to the community, close gaps in disparities, and sustain trust. There's more work to be done to improve access and inclusion of minority groups, and the impact of this outreach and engagement effort is an important step forward."

The ACC team plans to present the strategies that they implemented to address the health inequities in cancer research. According to Eureka Alert, the community engagement plan included innovations such as culturally tailored marketing strategies, pilot programs with Lyft and Ride Health to address transportation barriers, new partnerships with faith-based organizations serving Black communities to conduct educational events, and the establishment of an ACC Community Advisory Board and community educational forums, among other strategies. The center also increased access to language-tailored consent forms and translation services for patients. 

"We've shown here that a multifaceted, community-based engagement initiative works to improve access to cancer clinical trials by Black patients with cancer," said first author Carmen E. Guerra, MD, MSCE, FACP, an associate professor of Medicine and associate director for Diversity and Outreach in the ACC. "We will continue to work with collaborators such as the Lazarex Cancer Foundation that share in our vision to increase participation of underrepresented patients in trials, while at the same time engage with the community to develop strategies that address needs and barriers, from different social determinants of health to solidifying their trust."

Sources: Meeting Library, Eureka Alert

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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