Lung cancer research is moving at a rapid pace, with researchers learning more about the disease and working hard to find treatments to help save and extend lives. At the same time, Black Americans account for only 3.1% of participants in clinical trials for cancer drugs. Experts say that this needs to change.
“Clinical trials are not only the cornerstone of lung cancer research efforts, but are often the best treatment option available,” says Ozuru Ukoha, M.D., chair, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. “For these studies however, it’s important to enroll a diverse group of people so researchers can learn about how lung cancer treatments work in different people. Though Black Americans have the highest mortality rate in lung cancer and stand to benefit the most from clinical trials, they are underrepresented.”
“Awareness, Trust and Action,” a new awareness campaign from the American Lung Association with support from AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck, aims to encourage Black Americans to speak with their healthcare providers about clinical trials and their treatment options. As part of the campaign, the Lung Association is sharing a few fast facts:
• Diversity matters: It’s important to enroll a diverse group of people in clinical trials so that researchers can understand the effects of potential treatment methods on different patient populations. Unfortunately, many groups of people are underrepresented in clinical trials, including Black Americans. This happens for many reasons, one of them being the long-standing history of racial bias in health care, which impacts access to care and trust in providers.
• Participation is safe: Clinical trials are highly monitored research studies that can test many things, including how to prevent a disease, new ways to detect or diagnose a disease, or new ways to treat a disease. Each participant in a clinical trial is treated with the highest level of care. Oftentimes, the most appropriate treatment option for a lung cancer patient is through a clinical trial.
• Disparities persist: Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of both men and women in the United States, however, Black Americans with lung cancer are less likely to be diagnosed at an early stage, less likely to receive surgical treatment, and less likely to receive any treatment at all compared to white Americans. Black patients deserve better care, including the opportunity to benefit from the cutting-edge therapies clinical trials may offer.
• Everyone receives treatment: When a clinical trial tests a new lung cancer treatment, patients are never given a placebo or “sugar pill.” Everyone in the study gets the best-known treatment available, but some people will also get a new treatment being studied.
To learn more about lung cancer and clinical trials, visit Lung.org/trials-and-you.
“As lung cancer research continues to contribute to the declining cancer death rate we’ve seen in recent years, it is vital that we close gaps in care. Black Americans are underrepresented in clinical trials. This is unfortunate and deserves our immediate attention,” says Dr. Ukoha.