Letter: Diversity Matters in cancer research

Reducing health disparities in the U.S. requires a broad approach, from access to primary care to participation in clinical trials. As a caregiver I’m keenly aware of the need for diversity and addressing disparities when it comes to tackling this disease. About 1 in 5 cancer clinical trials fail because of a lack of participation. Racial and ethnic groups, older, rural and poorer Americans are all under-represented in trials that do move ahead. And there is a four-fold disparity in the number of Blacks who are diagnosed with cancer compared to those who participate in clinical trials.

This gap is something I recently asked Representatives Bob Latta and Jim Jordan to help address when we met with them as part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s virtual lobby day. The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act would help pinpoint and begin to address the barriers that keep people with diverse backgrounds from participating in trials.

The bill is named in honor of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951 and whose cells have played a role in some of modern medicine’s most important breakthroughs, including treatments for cancer. With COVID-19 upending clinical trials across the country, new policies to ensure clinical trials include patients from diverse backgrounds is even more crucial. This bill is an important first step to increase diversity in cancer clinical trials.

Call, write a letter, or email your Congressman and ask them to co-sponsor and support the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act

Pam Niese

Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)

Glandorf, Ohio

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