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Kristen Whitaker Receives Grant From V Foundation for Cancer Research

February 22, 2021

Dr. Kristen D. Whitaker, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical GeneticsDr. Kristen D. Whitaker, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Genetics

PHILADELPHIA (February 22, 2021)—Kristen D. Whitaker, MD, MS, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Genetics at Fox Chase Cancer Center, recently received a grant from the V Foundation for Cancer Research to study ways of improving diversity in clinical cancer trials. The grant was funded by Hooters of America, LLC.

The V Foundation was founded by famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano and ESPN to fund cancer research and accelerate efforts toward potential treatments. The Foundation has awarded more than $260 million in cancer research grants nationwide. Whitaker was awarded a one-year grant for her work.

“My project is specifically targeted toward African American patients with breast cancer and how we can improve their involvement in clinical trials,” said Whitaker. “Currently, only about 2.5% of cancer patients participate in any type of clinical trial.”

Whitaker said this is an important endeavor because clinical trials play a critical role in terms of determining the efficacy of new treatments, as well as their safety profiles. The efficacy of drugs and side effects can also differ in various racial groups, Whitaker said.

“With this in mind, it’s very important that clinical trials have diverse racial representation. Right now, that’s not the case. Less than 5% of patients that participate in cancer clinical trials are African American, so this is why I chose to focus on this group of patients,” said Whitaker.

Whitaker’s proposal involves randomizing patients into two groups that have slightly different interventions based on an educational brochure. One group of patients with breast cancer will receive a standard clinical trial educational handout that includes a basic description of clinical trials and discusses risks and benefits of clinical trials.  

The second brochure for a separate group will be what Whitaker calls a “culturally tailored” educational brochure. This would have the same components as the standard brochure but will highlight unique issues or concerns that have previously been reported by Black patients related to clinical trial enrollment. It will also include information on what the research community and laws have done to help mitigate some of those concerns.

“One thing we know for sure are that Black patients report frequently that one reason they don’t participate in clinical trials is due to distrust of healthcare providers and the healthcare system. We also know that they are more likely to report concerns about potential harm from being in a clinical trial,” said Whitaker.

Before receiving their brochure, patients will receive a survey that assesses their knowledge of clinical trials in general, clinical trials available at Fox Chase, and their levels of medical mistrust. There will then be a follow-up survey that will assess if those parameters have changed after receiving the educational intervention, Whitaker said.

“As someone who is well aware of the racial disparity in breast cancer mortality between Black and white patients, I think this study is really important to conduct,” said Whitaker. “I really see this as a launching point for assessing the efficacy of this intervention in larger study populations in the future.”

The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

 

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