LUNGevity, the leading lung cancer nonprofit, featured University of Illinois Cancer Center member Frank Weinberg, MD, PhD, in its recent “Health Equity in Action Speaker Series” webinar. Weinberg discussed reasons for success at UI Health enrolling African American patients in clinical trials, when racial and ethnic minority groups have historically been excluded from that research.
Most of the patients with lung cancer treated at UI Health are African American. The academic medical center on the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) campus draws primarily from the city’s west and south sides, which have large racial and ethnic minority populations.
Clinical Trial Enrollment
Of the 152 patients with lung cancer Weinberg saw from March 2021 to March 2023, a third of them (50 patients) enrolled in clinical trials. That’s a 33% enrollment rate when the national rate is about 10%. Overall, 79% of cancer clinical trials participants at UI Health are racial and ethnic minorities.
Racial disparities in clinical trial enrollment can have clinical implications because FDA approvals and standard of care treatments come from clinical trials. When the vast majority of clinical trial participants are white that doesn’t reflect the patient population he sees, Weinberg said.
Weinberg said there is a wrong idea among some who think that underrepresented groups don’t want to enroll in clinical trials because of medical mistrust, which is not the experience he has had with his patients.
Recommending Clinical Trials
Weinberg said word-of-mouth in neighborhoods can help spread understanding of clinical trials. He also spends time talking to patients to understand them and their lives and how a new lung cancer diagnosis impacts them. He uses patient-centered language (some of which has been refined by diverse patient advocates), explains trials in detail, and makes recommendations on clinical trials by telling patients whether he would recommend the trials to one of his family members.
“I’m honest with them,” he said.