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Dr John W. Sweetenham Addresses Disparities in Cancer Care and FDA Intervention

There are disparities in access to innovative therapies and entries into clinical trials, but FDA's recent proposed guidance could help close gaps, said John W. Sweetenham, MD, senior director of clinical affairs and executive medical director, Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.


There are disparities in access to innovative therapies and entries into clinical trials, but FDA's recent proposed guidance could help close gaps, said John W. Sweetenham, MD, senior director of clinical affairs and executive medical director, Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

Transcript

There are large disparities in cancer care delivery and outcomes – what can be done to address these disparities and close the gap by ensuring members of minority or underserved communities have access to care and are well educated about their care?

At the moment it’s very clear that access to most innovative therapies is a source of disparity. Entry into clinical trials, there are disparities there and those disparities go beyond the ones that we normally think about, ethnic and racial minorities, but into areas such as rural populations and their access to care. In terms of how we iron those out, I think that’s a massive subject and it’s partly educational, it’s partly more robust funding systems and honestly I think it’s partly electronic. I think the solution to these largely are going to require more sophisticated software platforms for communicating with the patients than we have right now.

Do you think the FDA’s proposed guidance documents for improving access to clinical trials will close the gaps?

I think to some extent they will. I think access to clinical trials probably has improved in recent years. I think the likelihood is that it will continue to improve but I think there are so many issues that we don’t fully cover – culturally sensitive and culturally competent kind of information about studies, understanding the different cultural challenges that there are towards clinical trials in, for example, some populations that don’t have a word for cancer in their vocabulary, and there are some. And so I think that some of these educational challenges that we have are the really big ones, but I think the new guidance will be helpful.

 
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