PHILADELPHIA (February 13, 2020) – A research article published in the Journal of Oncology Practice (JOP) last year featured Fox Chase Cancer Center as one of eight cancer centers of excellence in the United States. This paper was recently awarded the 2019 JOP Editor’s Pick Award for being one of the top five most-read articles published in the journal in 2019.
Evelyn González, senior director of the Office of Community Outreach at Fox Chase, was one of the study co-authors. The paper was conceived by Jeanne M. Regnante, chair of the Diverse Communities Working Group, National Minority Quality Forum, to identify cancer centers that successfully recruit racial and ethnic minorities into clinical trials, and to recognize what strategies they employ.
One of the key strategies the research revealed was community engagement. “As a research institution, we want to make sure that the communities we serve have access to quality care, which for us also includes access to potential life-saving research opportunities,” said González.
Regnante said the work is important because racial and ethnic minorities make up less than nine percent of participants in cancer clinical trials in the United States. “That is very daunting, especially when we know in 2040, we will be a minority majority country. The promise of what is known as precision medicine depends on having representative populations in clinical trials,” she said.
The study identified cancer centers, of which Fox Chase was one, that recruit racial and ethnic minority participants into clinical trials and exhibit several other related criteria. Fox Chase reported the accrual of 20 percent racial and ethnic minorities in their clinical trials. Then, by interviewing leaders at each of the eight identified centers, Regnante and the other researchers determined what strategies and best practices the centers put in place that enabled them to hit these recruitment numbers.
González’s team is responsible for establishing partnerships with the community, especially neighborhoods and populations that experience a higher cancer burden, in order to impart bilingual cancer education addressing prevention, risk, screening guidelines, and treatment options, including participation in medical research. This approach allows audiences to share their feedback and concerns and creates an opportunity for open dialogue. She described it as a “bidirectional approach.”
One way González’s team puts this approach into practice is through community forums. At these public events, González interviews a researcher who is involved in conducting a clinical trial and also a community member who has been through a clinical trial. The forums are designed to encourage audience participation via questions to the panel that enables them to clarify any misconceptions and to update everyone on patient protection measures. The ultimate goal is to help underrepresented minority (URM) audiences to understand the negative impact of not benefitting from new treatment as other populations do.
“As a Latina, I am very passionate about this issue. If URMs are not represented in studies, we will never learn why we are disproportionately affected by cancer or which treatments work best for our populations. This study enables us to share our experience while learning of other strategies we need to consider implementing,” González said.
This is what the JOP article was intended to do—to share strategies like community engagement, plus investigator training and mentoring, patient engagement, and leadership commitment with cancer centers in the United States and globally to help them improve their standards of care.
“They don’t do things to patients, they don’t do things for patients—they do things with patients,” Regnante said of Fox Chase and the other cancer centers of excellence. “It’s a long-standing commitment. Places like Fox Chase have been doing this for 15, 20 years. I think other centers can learn from the good work that they do.” She added that a top success factor for all centers is engaging patient providers in the process and decision making.
The paper, “US Cancer Centers of Excellence Strategies for Increased Inclusion of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in Clinical Trials,” was published in the Journal of Oncology Practice.
A second paper that came out of the same study focused on how cancer centers of excellence collect racial and ethnic minority data and how they measure recruitment success. This paper, “Operational Strategies in US Cancer Centers of Excellence That Support the Successful Accrual of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in Clinical Trials,” was just published in Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications.