WASHINGTON, D.C. — Black people have the highest death rate out of any racial group for most cancers nationwide, according to research by the American Cancer Society.
Now, advocates are working with lawmakers at the federal level to help improve the odds of survival by diversifying clinical trials.
Breast cancer survivor Cynthia Rogers says she was completely caught off guard by her diagnosis. When her doctor asked her to participate in a clinical trial for chemotherapy drugs, Rogers said yes.
“I thought, well, my mom had breast cancer, now I have breast cancer. I thought even though I was going through something difficult and painful, there’s got to be a bigger picture,” Rogers said. “There’s got to be a purpose for my pain.”
But her story isn’t common. Recent data from the Food and Drug Administration shows that more than 75-percent of clinical trial participants are white for a majority of the trials.
For African-Americans and Latinos, participation is about 10-percent or less.
Tammy Boyd of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network says the trend can be driven by structural racism.
“While there are no inherent biological differences by race and ethnicity, patients of different races and ethnicities may respond differently to drugs and biologics due to health disparities,” Boyd explained.
So the American Cancer Society is working with federal lawmakers to improve the odds.
The Diverse Trials Act would require agencies to change the way they carry out clinical trials. It could mean using telehealth and local providers to collect more data.
“The more minorities you can get into these drug clinical trials, the more effectively the physicians can prescribe the drugs that correspond to different populations,” Boyd said.
The legislation would also increase recruitment efforts, something Cynthia Rogers says is of personal significance to her.
“If we don’t step up and volunteer, who will,” Rogers asked. “We could be the next catalyst to finding new treatments, protocols, therapies, maybe one day finding a cure for some cancer.”
The Diverse Trials Act would also cover the cost of transportation and childcare for low-income patients in clinical trials.
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