UAB study on increasing participation of minorities in clinical trials hailed among best in cancer research

Research on using patient navigation as a means to increase participation of minorities in clinical trials is among this year’s top clinical cancer research advances.

mona fouad 2016 2Research led by Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH, director of the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine, has been selected by the American Society of Clinical Oncology for inclusion in Clinical Care Advances 2016, the Society’s annual review of progress against cancer and emerging trends in the field. The study, titled “Patient navigation as a model to increase minority participation in cancer clinical trials,” examines the use of patient navigators for informing and enrolling potentially eligible African-American patients in clinical trials.

Developed under the guidance of an expert editorial board, Clinical Cancer Advances is an independent annual review of the year’s major achievements in cancer and is published online at and in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

To be successful, cancer clinical trials require participation of individuals from all population groups. Enrollment and retention are especially challenging among racial and ethnic minorities. Currently, less than 10 percent of all trial participants are minorities.

“Patient navigation has been used to improve access to medical care, but it has not been evaluated as a tool to increase participation of minorities in clinical trials,” said Fouad, who is also director of the UAB Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center and a senior leader at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For this study, lay individuals who are not medical professionals were hired and trained to serve as patient navigators. African-American patients potentially eligible for clinical trials were identified through chart reviews and referrals by clinic nurses, physicians and social workers. The navigators met with the patients, informed them about current clinical trials, and provided tailored support to those who decided to enroll in a trial.

Between 2007 and 2014, of 378 African-Americans who were eligible for a clinical trial, 304 enrolled in one and 272 opted to receive patient navigation support. Among trial participants receiving navigation support, 75 percent completed the trial compared to 38 percent of trial participants not receiving navigation support. The difference in retention rates between the two groups was statistically significant, and participation of African-Americans in cancer clinical trials increased from 9 percent to 16 percent.  

“Although future studies need to evaluate clinical trial participation with other racial and ethnic minorities, this model hold promise as a strategy to reduce disparities in cancer clinical trial participation,” Fouad said.