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Research Snapshot: People of color still drastically underrepresented in NIH clinical trials

New numbers from the Enhancing Minority Participation in Clinical Trials (EMPaCT) consortium show less than five percent of National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial participants are non-white and less than two percent of clinical cancer research trials focus on non-white ethnic or racial groups.

Author and principal investigator Jasjit Ahluwalia, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of medicine in the University of Minnesota of Medical School, expressed his displeasure with the results.

“These new findings highlight the continued disparities in the enrollment of ethnic minorities into clinical trials,” said Ahluwalia.  “Scientists, patients and communities must work together to ensure a reversal, to achieve our goal of health equity.”

EMPaCT consortium research focuses on identifying barriers to recruitment, analyzing retention of racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials, and developing ways to increase enrollment.

Here are some key results:

  • Only about 150 out of 10,000 clinical trials, less than 2 percent, focused on a particular ethnic or minority population.
  • People of color experience the highest incidence of cancer (593.7 cases per 100,000) yet their participation in cancer clinical trials is only 1.3 percent.
  • Community Health Advisors (CHAs) are a powerful tool for increasing trial enrollment. They significantly improved compliance for scheduled clinical visits, demonstrating the opportunity for increased clinical trial enrollment by intervention at the community level.
  • There’s a lack of consistency in individualized approaches to race and ethnicity data collection.  More standardized, frequent, consistent collection, reporting and review of data is recommended as well as a commitment to collecting socioeconomic data, given that socioeconomic status is a primary driver of cancer disparities.

The findings were published in the March 2014 issue of the journal Cancer.

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