If you wanted to create a playlist of music that would appeal to many different types of people, you probably wouldn’t ask only middle-aged white men in Los Angeles to tell you you their favorite songs. More likely, you’d include people of many different racial and ethnic backgrounds from all parts of the country: some who grew up with jazz or salsa music, others who were raised on rock ‘n’ roll, and still others who know their Bach from their Beethoven.
Cancer treatments are kind of like a playlist: Not everyone responds to them in the same way. To get clinical trial results that will be applicable to the broadest range of people, researchers need to enroll women and men of different ages and racial backgrounds in their studies. Yet, when you look at a room of clinical trial participants, you typically see a preponderance of higher-income, middle-aged white men, most of whom don’t have health problems besides their cancer. But what about African-American women with cancer and diabetes? Or elderly Latinos with kidney problems in addition to cancer? Will the treatment be safe or effective for them? If they aren’t included in the clinical trial there is no way to know.
My feature story in the summer issue of Cancer Today explores efforts underway to increase enrollment and widen access to clinical trials. Read my story.