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Cancer trials underrepresent minorities and elderly, Mayo Clinic says

Published on 26/09/17 at 09:41am

New research conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota has found participant groups for clinical trials in cancer underrepresent ethnic minorities and elderly patients, based on an analysis of enrolment data from clinicaltrials.gov from 2003-2016 – a total of 55,689 participants.  

Of this total group, the findings showed that 83% were white, 6% were African-American, 5.3% were Asian, 2.6% were Hispanic and 2.4% were identified as other.

Compared to the period immediately before, researchers found that this discrepancy is even more pronounced. Historical data from 1996 to 2002 showed that African-Americans and Hispanic patients made up 9.2% and 3.1% respectively during this time, showing that representation in these areas has declined.

On top of this, the data showed that patients older than 65 only accounted for 36% of total clinical trial participants.

The researchers gave a few reasons for these findings, including the increasing use of genetic information and cultural biases which could be a factor causing minority groups to be less likely to enrol in clinical trials.

"Clinical trials are crucial in studying the effectiveness of new drugs and ultimately bringing them to the market to benefit patients," Dr. Narjust Duma, a haematology/oncology fellow at the Mayo Clinic. "However, many clinical trials lack appropriate representation of certain patient populations. As a result, the findings of a clinical trial might not be generalisable to all patients.

"This is leading to significant advances; however, it is vastly more expensive to run these trials, often leaving a limited budget to recruit patients or do outreach to the elderly or minorities," she continued. "Also, this type of testing can only be conducted at the major cancer centres. The midsized, regional hospitals are excluded because they don't have the capacity and, sadly, this leaves us farther away from these populations."

Matt Fellows

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