Research Documents a Significant Lack of Racial Diversity in Cancer Clinical Trials

According to a new study led by a researcher at the University of British Columbia, there is a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in clinical trials for cancer drugs. Other authors of the study are scholars from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington, and Baylor University in Texas.

The research team examined data from all reported trials supporting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration oncology drug approvals granted between July 2008 and June 2018. They scrutinized 230 trials with a total of 112,293 patients. They calculated the U.S. population-based cancer estimates by race using National Cancer Institute and U.S. Census data.

The results found that between 2008 and 2018, fewer than 8 percent of cancer drug trials reported participation by White, Asian, Black, and Hispanic Americans. Black and Hispanic patients were the most underrepresented at 22 percent and 44 percent, respectively, considering their populations’ incidence of cancer. The researchers also found that reporting about race in trials and enrollment rates changed minimally over the 10 years.

“Our findings show that the science might not be applicable to the population that’s going to receive the medications,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Jonathan Loree, assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of British Columbia and a medical oncologist with the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada. “If patients are going to be receiving the drug, we need to know that it’s going to work for them with the same effectiveness that’s seen in the trial.”

The full study, “Disparity of Race Reporting and Representation in Clinical Trials Leading to Cancer Drug Approvals From 2008 to 2018,” was published on the website of the journal JAMA Oncology. It may be accessed here.


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