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Celebrating Black History Month by Supporting Equity in Clinical Trials

The field of clinical research can often seem highly abstract or even detached from the world of lived experience. We work with large, de-identified data sets extracted and curated from the universe of electronic health records, claims systems, and myriad other sources. And yet, we are always brought back to the fact that amidst the data are the stories of people’s lives and their journeys of care.

 

This fact hits home even more so in February as we celebrate Black History Month at COTA.


Recently, I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on the importance of driving equity in clinical trials moving forward. As part of this effort, I had a chance to reflect on equity on a personal level. As a person of color and the son of first-generation Indian immigrants, this is a personal concern. Consider, for example, that type 2 diabetes is six times more prevalent in Indians and other South Asians than in Europeans. Given this heightened risk, should I or anyone of my ethnic background trust a diabetes drug that wasn’t tested on people like me? Or a clinical trial that didn’t report the racial and ethnic makeup of participants (as is the case for two-thirds of cancer trial participants)? The short answer is no. And we, as close partners with clinical research community, need to work hand-in-hand moving forward to ensure all lives are being equally represented and respected. 


We have significant ground to make up in addressing the persistent lack of diversity and inclusion in clinical trial participation and research. The FDA has begun to already do their part, issuing guidelines on diversity and inclusion – while also suggesting that clinical trials should look beyond traditional models and leverage real-world data (RWD) “to promote more efficient recruitment of a diverse population.” 


A first step in helping to ensure diversity and inclusion and clinical trials is being transparent about disparities that exist today. To this point, a recent research study using COTA’s real-world database to examine potential disparities in clinical treatment pathways and outcomes for Black patients with multiple myeloma found that Blacks consistently experienced delayed access to first-line therapy and stem cell transplant – a treatment disparity that may otherwise have remained unknown and uncorrected. 


At COTA, we plan to remain active and vigilant regarding on broader commitments to driving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in clinical trials. We take great pride in fostering respect for DEI within our own team, and are energized to expand these efforts more broadly as we partner with leading life sciences and healthcare provider organizations to drive clarity – and equality – in cancer research and care moving forward.