University Study Finds Racial Bias in Selection of Patients for Cancer Clinical Trials

A new study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham finds that there may be racial bias in selecting participants for cancer clinical trials. Researchers interviewed researchers, administrators, and staff at five medical centers in the United States.

The results showed that:

1) Recruitment interactions with potential minority participants were perceived to be challenging;

2) Potential minority participants were not perceived to be ideal study candidates;

3) A combination of clinic‐level barriers and negative perceptions of minority study participants led to providers withholding clinical trial opportunities from potential minority participants.

Examples of the stereotypes discovered in the interviews included perceptions that African Americans were less knowledgeable about cancer research studies, less likely to participate out of altruism or simply less likely to complete all facets of the research study.

Raegan Durant, the senior author of the study and an associate professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, stated that “once we acknowledge the potential presence of this bias in this context, we can better identify it, measure it and begin to think about how best to address it. As with most phenomena in science, we have to come to terms with its existence so that it can be studied in an empiric fashion.”

Dr. Durant is a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C. He holds a master of public health degree from Harvard University and a medical doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The full study, “Bias and Stereotyping Among Research and Clinical Professionals: Perspectives on Minority Recruitment for Oncology Clinical Trials,” was published on the website of the journal Cancer, a publication of the American Cancer Society. It may be accessed here.

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