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Focusing on Factors That Thwart Minority Participation in Clinical Trials

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Researchers from M. D. Anderson's Center for Research on Minority Health are part of a national project to better understand and address the barriers that limit participation and access to cancer clinical trials by minority populations.

Enhancing Minority Participation in Clinical Trials (EMPaCT) is an 18-month, $3.8 million program funded by the National Institutes of Health Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. NCMHHD Director John Ruffin, Ph.D., joined EMPaCT leaders from five institutions to announce the program Thursday at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

"While minorities make up one-third of the U.S. population, few participate in clinical trials for various reasons including cultural or religious factors, lack of awareness and a historical mistrust of the medical system," Ruffin said. "This research will start to identify and break down these racial and ethnic communications barriers, help to rebuild the community's trust, increase the participation and retention of racial/ethnic minorities in clinical trials, and will serve as a model that could be implemented at other cancer centers and hospitals nationwide."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, racial and ethnic minorities suffer more from cancer than the U.S. population as a whole, developing certain types of cancer more often with a greater chance of premature death due to late-stage detection. Only about 3% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials, which are vital to developing new cancer therapies, and only about 10% of those are minorities.

The consortium takes a regional approach to assure representation of multiple minority groups.

"EMPaCT will allow us to coordinate efforts of recruitment and, more importantly, retention of minorities to clinical trials on a national basis with an emphasis on regional efforts," says Lovell Jones, Ph.D., the project's lead investigator for the south region, director of the CRMH and professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Health Disparities Research. "It allows us to bring together all of the experienced site investigators who have a history of recruiting and retaining individuals in clinical trials.

"Additionally, the efforts will have direction from significant leaders, including American Cancer Society incoming President Edward Partridge, M.D., who has served as leader at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, and has a long history and interest in recruitment and retention to clinical trials," Jones says, "and Ernest Hawk, M.D., head of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at M. D. Anderson, bringing leadership experience from previously being directly responsible for all of the comprehensive cancer programs at the National Cancer Institute. It's a dream team for enhancing minority participation in clinical trials."   

Other members of the EMPaCT consortium are Johns Hopkins University (east region), University of Alabama at Birmingham (southeast), University of Minnesota (midwest), which is the EMPaCT lead institution, and University of California, Davis (west).  


M. D. Anderson Resources

M. D. Anderson Center for Research on Minority Health

M. D. Anderson Health Disparities Research    

M. D. Anderson Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences


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