NEWS | January 21, 2015

Moon Chen's research featured in ASCO's 2015 cancer progress report


UC Davis professor Moon Chen’s research on the under-representation of minorities in clinical trials appears in the American Society in Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s annual cancer progress report released Tuesday.

Moon Chen Moon Chen

Assessing the year’s major achievements and emerging trends in clinical cancer research and care, the Clinical Cancer Advances 2015: ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer shows that despite The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Revitalization Act of 1993, which mandates appropriate representation of women and racial/ethnic minorities in NIH-funded clinical research studies, the proportion of racial/ethnic minorities participating in cancer clinical trials is persistently lower than the proportion of minorities in the overall U.S. population.

Minorities are disproportionately burdened with cancer, said Chen, lead author and the cancer center’s associate director for disparities and research. The need for adequate participation in cancer research is greater than ever.

“For every kind of cancer for which new therapeutics are being developed every day, the gap for providing better treatment to minority groups is widening,” said Chen.  Lung cancer is a good example, he explained, referring to his co-author Karen Kelly’s work on ethnically specific research. The disease affects Asian and Caucasian populations differently. Because of the differences in metabolic and racial compositions, each group will have a different response to lung cancer therapy.

“But if the genetic makeup of only one group is represented in research,  there’s no way of knowing if the same therapy will work in the other,” he said. “If we tested a drug only in men, for example, we wouldn’t have any evidence that it would work in women, too.”

Key findings from Chen’s work provide suggestions for addressing the lack of participation. According to his study, “Twenty years post-NIH Revitalization Act: Enhancing Minority Participation in Clinical Trials (EMPaCT): Laying the groundwork for improving minority clinical trial accrual,” more NCI clinical trials need to focus primarily on racial/ethnic populations. The proportion of minority adults enrolled needs to increase and adequately represent the U.S. population with cancer. More usable data about minority populations should be available, as well as interventions to help these populations overcome cultural and other barriers to participation.

The study also shows that there is increasing value in ensuring participation of minority populations in clinical trials because racial and ethnic diversity in molecular tumor characteristics and drug processing are found to play a significant role in cancer outcomes.

UC Davis co-authors of the study include Primo “Lucky” Lara, associate director for translational research, and Karen Kelly, associate director for clinical research, as well as Julie Dang, administrative core director for the National Center for Reducing Asian American Cancer Health Disparities, and Debora Paterniti, a qualitative researcher. Funding was provided by the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

The report was developed under the guidance of the Clinical Cancer Advances editorial board, and will be published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology at, and with supplemental resources at You can view previous years’ reports at

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 10,000 adults and children every year, and access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 280 scientists at UC Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Jackson Laboratory (JAX West), whose scientific partnerships advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis collaborates with a number of hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California regions to offer the latest cancer care. Its community-based outreach and education programs address disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations. For more information, visit