According to the American Lung Association, Black Americans are underrepresented in clinical trials, accounting for only 3.1% of participants in clinical trials for cancer drugs. To address this problem, the organization announced a new Awareness, Trust and Action campaign, which aims to educate Black Americans about clinical trials and encourage them to speak with their healthcare provider.
Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of both men and women in the United States, however, Black men suffer disproportionally from lung cancer, the ALA reports. Black men are more likely to get lung cancer and die from it than their white counterparts, despite historically lower smoking rates. 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. This leads to poorer outcomes.
“Lung cancer research continues to move at a rapid pace, contributing, in part, to the declining cancer death rate in recent years. We are learning more about lung cancer and researchers are working hard to find treatments to help save and extend the lives of lung cancer patients. The cornerstone of this research effort and the best treatment option available is clinical trials,” said Ozuru Ukoha, MD, Chair, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. “For these studies, it is important to enroll a diverse group of people so researchers can learn about how lung cancer treatments work in different people. Black Americans have the highest mortality rate in lung cancer and stand to benefit the most from clinical trials but instead, they are underrepresented. This is unfortunate and deserves our immediate attention.”
Clinical trials are highly monitored research studies that can test many things like 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. Sometimes the most appropriate treatment option for a lung cancer patient is through a clinical trial.
“This disease poses a risk to women, and African Americans are woefully underrepresented in clinical trials,” said Sheena Payne, lung cancer clinical trial participant. “I think it is important to share my experience with lung cancer because early detection saves lives, and everyone, especially women of color, need to know that they don’t have to be a smoker to get this disease.”
Through the American Lung Association’s new Awareness, Trust and Action Campaign, the organization is working to empower patients to speak with their healthcare providers about treatment options and make an educated decision about participating in a clinical trial.