People of color are still underrepresented in oncology clinical trials, but cancer doesn’t discriminate.
The lack of representation is a stark contrast to patient needs. Oncology trials detect, diagnose, treat and reduce the incidence of cancer disease.
African Americans have the shortest survival rate — and the highest death rate — of any racial and ethnic group, according to the National Cancer Society. Although African Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population, only 3% participate in oncology trials. And despite making up 19% of the population, only 6% of Hispanics participate in oncology trials.
These racial disparities are the result of lack of access to care, patient mistrust, implicit biases and restrictive trial inclusion criteria, according to Dr. Sommer Bazuro, PhD, chief medical officer of FCB Health Network.
“Most cancer trials are going to be held at major cancer centers, and that may not be where African American and Hispanic patients are receiving their care,” she said. “They may be receiving care at community hospitals, and they're not going to have the amount of clinical trials you would see in [larger hospitals].”
In addition to lack of access, minority populations may not be able to meet the rigor of clinical trial schedules, and often have to deal with implicit bias as part of trials, she added.
For example, trials may exclude African American and Hispanic populations by requiring a “healthier” group of patients to evaluate the efficiency of a drug. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes disproportionately affect African American and Hispanic populations, and therefore may exclude them from participating in trials.
To raise awareness around this issue, FCB Health Network launched Trial for #ClinicalEquality, a campaign that plays with the definition of the word “trial.”
One ad proclaims, “Put my cancer on trial,” while another boldly states, “let the data tell the whole truth.” The campaign will run across print and digital platforms and includes a Change.org petition.
“We always want to humanize the data, because the data itself can feel cold, but that data is all about human life, and that's so important,” said Kathleen Nanda, chief creative officer of FCB Health New York. “You refine the work until you have the complex facts, but you say it simply and emotionally. That's what brings it to life and helps the audience connect with your message.”
The campaign’s target audience is broad, from African American and Hispanic communities and their allies, to the healthcare providers running oncology trials.
“You don't have to be Black or Hispanic yourself to care about this issue,” Bazuro said.
FCB Health Network hopes to expand the campaign to feature real patients in the future.
“We want people to understand that right now, there isn't clinical equality, but we can get there,” Nanda said.