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Continuing Medical Education

Continuing Medical Education

NEWS | February 15, 2012

UC Davis Cancer Center selected as part of national effort to increase minority participation in cancer clinical trials

Editor's note:

 Click here to view this release en español.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

Researchers from the UC Davis Cancer Center are part of a national effort that has just received a five-year round of funding to better understand and address barriers that limit the participation of minority populations in cancer therapeutic trials.

The National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), the newest of the National Institutes of Health institutes, has awarded a $5.1 million grant over five years to Enhancing Minority Participation in Clinical Trials (EMPaCT), a consortium of five institutions seeking to increase representation of multiple minority groups in cancer trials. The Phase II funding follows up on an earlier 18-month start-up Phase I grant.

EMPaCT consists of five National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers and NIMHD disparities research program sites selected for their commitment to cancer and health disparities research, as well as cancer clinical trial development and implementation. In addition to UC Davis, which is representing the West region and focusing on Asian American accrual, participating institutions are:

  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, lead institution (Midwest - Native American and African American accrual)
  • University of Alabama, Birmingham, co-lead institution (Southeast - African American accrual)
  • Johns Hopkins University (East - African American accrual)
  • University of Texas M.D. Anderson in Houston (Southwest - Latino/Hispanic accrual)

The consortium's Phase II goal is increasing the recruitment and retention of racial/ethnic minorities into therapeutic clinical trials to reduce cancer-related health disparities. The objective is to realize a 5 percent increase in participants over the next five years.

Moon Chen © UC Regents
Moon Chen

A key initial strategy is education and training through online courses, or modules. The consortium will establish a Web portal that includes training modules that have been customized for investigators, research staff, referring physicians and patient navigators. It will be custom-designed to provide resources for recruitment and retention while also serving as an information hub. Each institution will make a different contribution to the site, with the UC Davis team providing cultural-competency expertise.

Clinical trials, which are vital to developing new cancer therapies, evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people.  Having adequate and meaningful numbers of individuals from all racial/ethnic populations and both genders is needed to assure that the therapies being developed for cancer will be based on the specific characteristics of these populations. Thus, inclusion is necessary, especially as the U.S. is increasingly diverse.

"While racial/ethnic minorities make up nearly half of the U.S. population--and, in some states, like California, Texas and Hawaii already constitute the majority--relatively few participate in clinical trials for various reasons, including cultural or religious factors, lack of awareness and a historical mistrust of the medical system," said UC Davis Professor Moon Chen, head of the UC Davis EMPaCT team.

"The fact that only 3 percent of adults are enrolled in clinical trials, and only 10 percent of those are minorities, shows how important it is for more minorities to participate in trials," added Chen, who serves as associate director for cancer control at the UC Davis Cancer Center. "EMPaCT's efforts are designed to aggressively increase participation of minorities in these all-important trials."

UC Davis 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 top specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 9,000 adults and children every year, and offer patients access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program includes more than 280 scientists at UC Davis and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The unique partnership, the first between a major cancer center and national laboratory, has resulted in the discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis is collaborating with a number of hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California regions to offer the latest cancer-care services. For more information, visit cancer.ucdavis.edu.