AACR calls for policy changes to reduce cancer care inequities, improve trial access for minority communities

The issue is well-documented by now: minorities are not getting the same chances to participate in cancer clinical trials as white patients and at the same time face overall disparities in care. The American Association for Cancer Research has put out a call for funding, data collection, cancer control initiatives and access to healthcare in an effort to finally turn things around.

Cancer care has seen major advances in recent years, but the benefits of new, more effective treatments are not trickling down to racial and ethnic minorities and other medically underserved patients, AACR wrote in the Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2022 report. AACR underscores the lack of racial and sociodemographic diversity in clinical trials for cancer therapies, urging new ways of reaching patients through community outreach and patient navigation.

AACR recommends using community-based and culturally tailored strategies for each population group and for all stakeholders in the medical research community to work together. Specifically, AACR calls on policymakers and other stakeholders to provide robust and predictable funding for the federal agencies and programs that address cancer health disparities, such as the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another important pillar is data collection. AACR suggests the collection and analysis of cancer-related, disaggregated data for sexual, gender, racial and ethnic minority populations. Representation in clinical trials can be improved by reducing barriers to enrollment and requiring better data reporting and community engagement, the study says.

More could be done to increase diversity in the cancer research and care community to ensure that patients see people like them when they seek care.

Policymakers can also prioritize cancer prevention initiatives such as increased HPV vaccination and improved access to cancer screening, as well as expand Medicaid and access to healthcare coverage, with greater support for patients and healthcare providers.

And the final recommendation is to enact the Health Equity and Accountability Act, which aims to eliminate racial and ethnic health inequities.

AACR's report is the latest call to action to address diversity issues in cancer research. Last week, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance presented a study at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists in Chicago noting that more than 80% of Black patients would consider participating in a clinical trial—they just aren't being asked.