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J Clin Oncol. 2004 Feb 15;22(4):730-4.

Enrollment of African Americans onto clinical treatment trials: study design barriers.

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Cancer Center, Division of Cancer Prevention, Control and Population Sciences, Howard University College of Medicine2041 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20060, USA.



African Americans have the highest cancer mortality rates and poorest survival and are more often uninsured and underinsured compared with other ethnic groups. Minority participation in clinical trials has traditionally been low, with reports ranging from 3% to 20%. The present study systematically assesses 235 consecutively diagnosed African American cancer patients regarding recruitment onto cancer treatment clinical trials at Howard University Cancer Center between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2002. Our intent is to determine the rate-limiting factors associated with enrolling African Americans onto clinical trials at a historically black medical institution.


Two hundred thirty-five consecutively diagnosed African American cancer patients were assessed for participation in clinical trials at Howard University Hospital and Cancer Center. The study population comprised 165 women and 70 men.


The overall eligibility rate was 8.5% (20 of 235 patients); however, among those eligible, the enrollment rate (ie, enrollment among the eligible population) was 60.0% (12 of 20 patients). Comorbidities rendered 17.1% of the patient population ineligible for the trials. Advanced disease stage, associated with poor performance status, premature death, and short life expectancy, made an additional 10% of the patient population ineligible. Respiratory failure, HIV positivity, and anemia accounted for 37.8% of the comorbidities in this population. Cardiovascular diseases and renal insufficiency represented 16.2% of the comorbidities.


It was evident that study design exclusion and inclusion criteria rendered the majority of the study population ineligible. Among African Americans, comorbidity is a major issue that warrants considerable attention.

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