Diverse collage of people.

How oncology clinical trials can use data to dig deeper on diversity

This year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting highlighted the need to boost diversity in cancer studies. Experts tell Clinical Trials Arena how data can be used to do so.

By William Newton, Clinical Trials Arena

The urgent need for more diversity in clinical trials was a common refrain at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. Although many study sponsors are broadly aware of this concern, most still struggle to implement specific, structural changes that will help trials better represent the wider population.

To understand where trials are falling short, sponsors must first report information on the race and ethnicity of clinical trial subjects. But so far, most sponsors fail to do so.

In fact, among Phase III cancer trials completed in the past five years, most did not publicly reveal data on race and ethnicity. Less than half of pharma-sponsored trials, and only one in 10 institution-sponsored trials, reported on the race or ethnicity of their enrolled patients, GlobalData’s Clinical Trials Database shows. GlobalData is the parent company of Clinical Trials Arena.

Even still, collecting data on race and ethnicity is only the bare minimum. “If we’re really serious about trying to recruit more diverse trials, we have to pay attention to the social determinants of health,” notes Dr Al Benson, oncologist at the Feinberg School of Medicine and an author of ASCO’s guidance for increasing trial diversity.

Data on social determinants of health can unearth why trials underrepresent certain races and ethnicities, which can prompt strategies that address these underlying failures, experts say. Population health data can help sponsors build more representative inclusion and exclusion criteria and engage with community-based sites that better reflect their target indications.

Addressing diversity in trials is critical, as it allows sponsors to learn how their treatments could work in a real-world setting. With ASCO and the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) publishing a joint guidance on increasing diversity in clinical trials shortly before the marquee oncology conference, the onus falls on sponsors to take meaningful action. Read more …