Does Lung Cancer Discriminate?
Addressing the Lack of Diversity in Lung Cancer Clinical Trials
Q: Why does lung cancer disproportionately impact minority populations?
Obasaju: Lung cancer maintains its status as one of the most prevalent and deadly of all cancers. Approximately 200,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year – globally this figure swells to about one million. This disease takes a particularly heavy toll on African Americans. Despite their lower smoking rates, African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to develop and die from lung cancer. It is not clear why African Americans have a greater risk for developing lung cancer, but researchers believe it may be in part related to a person’s genetics, environmental and socio-economic background.
Q: Why is it so critical for minorities to participate in clinical trials?
Obasaju: One way to get a better understanding of this situation is through increased diversity in clinical trials. Historically, minorities have been underrepresented. Several factors contribute to this, including a lack of awareness about the importance of diversity in cancer research. Economics, language and cultural barriers, coupled with a historical mistrust of the clinical trial process, also contribute to the low rates of minority participation.
Despite these challenges, we must continue to find ways to increase their participation. This change is vital to ensure researchers understand how lung cancer affects all populations and substantiate whether treatments are effective across all ethnic groups.
Q: What can be done to increase minority participation in clinical trials?
Obasaju: To start, research teams can identify clinical trial sites located in close proximity to minority groups. Other critical steps include translating details about clinical trial enrollment into different languages, creating culturally adaptable patient tools and working with patient navigators, who can help guide clinical trial participants through the treatment process. We need to continue to raise awareness on the importance of minority representation in clinical trials and trust that if minorities know more about this critical issue, it will inspire them to take action.
Q: Where can someone go for more information about participating in a clinical trial?
Obasaju: A healthcare provider is one of the best resources to explain how patients can participate in a clinical trial. Healthcare providers can direct eligible individuals to the most appropriate trial taking place in their area and explain the process for enrolling. There are also great resources available online, including the National Cancer Institute’s website (cancer.gov/clinicaltrials). This site allows users to search for trials that are currently enrolling participants and provides users with a variety of answers to the most pressing questions about trial participation.