Dr Karen Winkfield on Improving Minority Access, Education for Precision Oncology

October 4, 2020

Addressing gaps in testing and education within precision oncology can assist in improving access to patients of color and other underserved populations.

Addressing gaps in testing and education within precision oncology can assist in improving access to patients of color and other underserved populations, said Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD, incoming executive director, Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.

Transcript

AJMC®: In the era of precision medicine, what can oncologists do to ensure that newer therapies are the right choice for minority patients?

Dr Winkfield: Precision oncology has really come a long way, and I do think that oftentimes people think about it as just genetic testing or genomic testing. That's important, and we do know that there's a gap, even in terms of testing, for some things as simple as an oncotype for breast cancer patients. We know that Black patients are not getting the oncotype test at the same rate as other racial and ethnic groups.

So, really, just making sure that there's access is one thing that can be important. Whether it be partnering with some of the testing facilities to make sure that there is opportunity for individuals who may be underinsured or uninsured to gain access to some of these precision oncology tests, that would be wonderful.

The other thing is making sure people understand, again, community engagement. I'm going to keep coming back to that, because patients need to understand the importance of it and know that they're not being a guinea pig, etc, but that we want to make sure that their treatment is personalized. The personalization is not just to them as an individual, but also to their tumor and what their tumor might be doing. So, that communication is important as well.

So, sometimes it may require a second biopsy. So, you can imagine, if a person has gone through therapy and then their tumor is not responding, and you say, "Oh, we need to get some more tissue," there can be some misunderstandings about that. So, really being open with your patients about the rationale and the reason for getting additional tissue, but, again, making sure that patients don't have very high out-of-pocket cost is one of the things that I think will go a long way to improving access to patients of color and other underserved populations to precision oncology.