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Clinical Trials Are Becoming More Diverse, But There’s Still Work To Do

U.S. cancer clinical trial participants have become more diverse in makeup, but certain groups remain underrepresented, a new study finds.

It’s important to have a wide range of participants in clinical trials, to find out if treatments are safe and effective for people with different characteristics, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which has a number of initiatives to boost diversity in clinical trials it funds.

“Our article indicates that the disparity for clinical enrollment in NCI clinical trials has narrowed for minorities, but further efforts are still needed,” study author Dr. Juan Javier-DesLoges of UC San Diego Health said in a journal news release.

In this latest study, researchers analyzed 766 NCI-funded breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer trials conducted from 2000 to 2019. Of the nearly 243,000 people in the trials, 81.3% were white, 8.7% were Black, 4.8% were Hispanic and 2.8% were Asian/Pacific Islanders.

When the researchers compared clinical trial participation from 2015 to 2019 with cancer incidence rates from 2015 to 2017, they found that Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to participate in breast cancer clinical trials, but were underrepresented in colon, lung and prostate cancer trials.

People older than 65 were underrepresented in breast, colon and lung cancer trials, and women were underrepresented in colon and lung cancer trials.

When the researchers compared trial participation in 2000–2004 and 2015–2019, they found that Hispanics and Blacks were more likely to be included in recent breast, lung and prostate cancer trials.

While women were less likely to be included in recent colon cancer trials, they were more likely to take part in recent lung cancer trials.

Trends on the inclusion of patients 65 and older varied by cancer type, according to the study published online Nov. 22 in the journal Cancer.

Further work is needed to correct continuing underrepresentation of women and older patients in clinical trials, the researchers noted.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on clinical trials.

SOURCES: Cancer, news release, Nov. 22, 2021

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