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Efforts to Boost Minority Numbers in Clinical Trials

Most of the patients taking part in cancer immunotherapy trials, like other clinical trials, are white, the New York Times reports, adding that researchers say they are trying to address the disparity.

For instance, it notes that of the 582 people in a trial of immunotherapy for lung cancer, 92 percent were white, 3 percent black, 3 percent Asian, and 3 percent were listed as other, while in another study of immunotherapy for kidney cancer, of the 821 participants, 88 percent were white, 9 percent Asian and 1 percent black. Meanwhile, the 2015 census says that whites make up 77 percent of the US population, blacks 13.3 percent, and Asians 5.6 percent.

The Times says researchers and clinicians are trying various approaches to boost the numbers of minorities in clinical trials. Impediments to minorities participating in clinical trials typically include income and education level as well as proximity to major cancer centers and a higher incidence of co-morbidities that might makes patients ineligible, it notes.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Queens Hospital's Cancer Center, where more than 90 percent of patients are from a minority group, are collaborating to increase patients' access to and education about clinical trials. Others, though, are focusing their studies on certain racial or ethnic groups, it adds.

K.T. Jones, who has Hodgkin's lymphoma, has benefited from taking part in a cancer immunotherapy trial — he was one of two African Americans in a small 23-person study. "I've been over 12 months now with no treatment at all," he tells the Times. "I walk half-marathons."