Abramson Cancer Center doubles the percentage of Black participants in clinical trials

A five-year community outreach and engagement effort by the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) to increase enrollment of Black patients into cancer clinical trials more than doubled the percentage of participants, improving access and treatment for a group with historically low representation in cancer research. The percentage of patients enrolled into a treatment clinical trial, for example, increased from 12 to 24%. A significant increase was also observed in non-therapeutic interventional and non-interventional trials.

Medical worker in a face mask holds a clipboard for an African American person to sign.

The findings were published in an abstract to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting on June 5.

“An important goal of the Abramson Cancer Center is to serve and engage our community—and that includes improving access to clinical trials for all patients,” says senior author Robert H. Vonderheide, director of the ACC and vice president for Cancer Programs in the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “Aligning the number of Black patients with cancer we care for with the number enrolled in our trials is how we can help bring more equitable care to the community, close gaps in disparities, and sustain trust. There’s more work to be done to improve access and inclusion of minority groups, and the impact of this outreach and engagement effort is an important step forward.”

Despite making up 13.4% of the U.S. population, only five percent of Black patients with cancer are enrolled in clinical trials. Of 8,700 patients who participated in trials nationwide related to the 28 oncology drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2018 and 2019, only 4% were Black, according to FDA Drug Trial Snapshot reports.

To address these gaps, the ACC established a centerwide program with community guidance and engagement that included: culturally tailored marketing strategies; new partnerships with faith-based organizations serving Black communities to conduct educational events; establishment of an ACC community Advisory Board and community educational forums; pilot programs with Lyft and Ride Health to address transportation barriers; and patient education by nurse navigators regarding cancer and clinical trials.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.