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Erin McNemar

With data analytics, researchers found that some populations are underrepresented in cancer clinical trials, which contributes to health disparities.

According to a data analytics study examining health disparities in cancer clinical trials, certain populations remain underrepresented despite attempts to increase participation.

By including individuals with diverse backgrounds in clinical trials, researchers can determine if treatments are safe and effective for people with different characteristics, improving population health. To improve diversity in clinical trials, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has created several initiatives.

Juan F. Javier-DesLoges, MD, MS, of UC San Diego Health, and his colleagues analyzed the NCI Clinical Data Update System, a database that contains records on participants in NCI-sponsored clinical trials, to examine the representation of minorities, women, and older patients in 766 breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer trials from 2000–2019.

The trials in the data analysis included 242,720 participants: 197,320 Non-Hispanic White (81.3 percent), 21,190 Black (8.7 percent), 11,587 Hispanic (4.8 percent), and 6,880 Asian/Pacific Islander (2.8 percent) patients.

The research team analyzed clinical trial participation from 2015- 2019 compared to the proportion of cancer incidence rates from 2015- 2017 for non-Hispanic Whites versus minorities, elderly versus nonelderly patients, and female versus male patients.

According to the results, Black and Hispanic patients were more likely to participate in breast cancer clinical trials but were significantly underrepresented in colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer trials. Additionally, patients over 65 were underrepresented in breast, colorectal, and lung cancer trials while women were underrepresented in colorectal and lung cancer trials.

When the team examined 2000–2004 and 2015–2019, they discovered that Hispanic and Black patients were more likely to be included in breast, lung, and prostate cancer trials in recent years than in the early 2000s.

For women, they were less likely to be included in colorectal cancer trials in recent years. However, women were more likely to participate in lung cancer trials. Trends in inclusion for patients older than 65 years varied depending on the cancer type.

“Our article indicates that the disparity for clinical enrollment in NCI clinical trials has narrowed for minorities, but further efforts are still needed,” Javier-DesLoges said in a press release.

According to researchers, additional work needs to be conducted to address the ongoing underrepresentation of women and older patients in clinical trials.

To eliminate health disparities, researchers must identify the root cause of the problem and development methods to promote health equality. By improving the representation in clinical trials, researchers can enhance population health and provide better patient outcomes.

While representation in clinical trials has increased, many populations remain underrepresented.