U.S. cancer trials still suffering from lack of diversity: report

Graphic of doctor and patient side by side
Researchers are urging that diveristy is put front and center in cancer trials to help tackle this problem (Trial image: Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0)

Oncology tests in the U.S. are still failing to adequately represent racial diversity, and more needs to be done to help combat this disparity, according to new research.

Writing in the JAMA Oncology journal, investigators delved into the reporting and representation of the racial make-up of those involved in 230 trials through a 10-year period between 2008 and 2018 testing cancer drugs that were later approved by the FDA.

Across these, race was reported in only 145 (63%) trials, according to their findings, compared with whites (98% of expected proportion), blacks (22% of expected proportion) and Hispanics (44% of expected proportion).  

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They found that while black and Hispanic patients “were consistently underrepresented compared with their expected proportion based on cancer incidence and mortality in the United States,” but Asian patients “appeared to be overrepresented,” while white patients pretty much matched their expected proportion.

They conclude that: “Despite efforts to eliminate health care disparities, gaps in race reporting and disparate representation persist in oncology trials. Black and Hispanic patients are consistently underrepresented relative to the U.S. population in trials used for FDA cancer drug approvals.

“Reducing cancer care disparities is a multidimensional task that extends beyond trial accrual and reporting, and there is a pressing need for affirmative policies, dedicated disparity research, and social/regulatory interventions to increase representation of minority groups in cancer research. Given the growing racial and ethnic pluralism in society, it is a scientific and ethical imperative to ensure that our research reflects and benefits all.”

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