New research has revealed bias and stereotyping among clinical and research professionals who hire patients for cancer clinical trials.

The study has been published in the American Cancer Society (ACS) peer-reviewed journal CANCER.

It uncovers that the proportion of racial and ethnic minorities participating in cancer clinical trials is lower when compared to the ratio of minorities in the US population.

While conducting clinical trials, it is very important to include diverse participants to ensure that the results will apply to patients in the general population, the study stated.

In order to investigate the under-representation of racial and ethnic minorities, a team led by the University of Alabama examined whether biases held by healthcare and research professionals can help explain why these minorities are not fully represented.

The researchers conducted interviews with a total of 91 individuals, including cancer centre leaders, primary investigators of clinical trials, referring clinicians, and research staff at five US cancer centres.

The research team noted these major themes from the interviews conducted:

  • Recruitment interactions with potential minority participants were perceived to be challenging.
  • Potential minority participants were not perceived to be ideal study candidates; a combination of clinic‐level barriers and negative perceptions of minority study participants led to providers withholding clinical trial opportunities from potential minority participants.
  • When clinical trial recruitment practices were tailored to minority patients, addressing research misconceptions to build trust was a common strategy. For some respondents, race was perceived as irrelevant when screening and recruiting potential minority participants for clinical trials.

The paper’s first author Soumya Niranjan from the University of Alabama explained:  “Examples of the stereotypes we observed included perceptions that African Americans were less knowledgeable about cancer research studies, less likely to participate due to altruism, or simply less likely to complete all facets of the research study.

“These and other examples of bias based on stereotypes of potential minority participants raise concerns that non-whites may be offered fewer opportunities to participate in cancer research studies.”