Melissa Johnson, MD, program director of lung cancer research at Sarah Cannon Research Institute, outlines the importance of diverse patient populations in cancer trials.
We need to make sure the results of the clinical trials we do are representative of the real-world population, said Melissa Johnson, MD, program director of lung cancer research at Sarah Cannon Research Institute.
What strategies are effective at increasing diversity in clinical trials, and have you seen improvement?
This is a hot button topic, isn't it, improving diversity in access to care, not just in oncology, but certainly in clinical trials in particular, so that the results of the trials that we do will mirror what's going to happen in a real-world population. I think that we have a lot of work to do here. Pharma biotech needs to think outside the box in terms of site selection, and allowing just-in-time trials is just the tip of the iceberg there.
I come from Tennessee, where I practice in Nashville. That is largely a Caucasian town, and 3 hours to the west is Memphis, where the African American population is much larger. We can't ask those people to commute over to Nashville for treatment on clinical trials, so we need to figure out ways that they can access those trials in the communities in which they live, which is Sarah Cannon's mission.
Another important factor, I think, is modernizing, or liberalizing, eligibility criteria. Of course, we want a patient population that has the particular biomarker that we're looking for. Of course, we want patients that aren't likely to pass away on trial. But we have to find ways to open up clinical trials to more oncology patients. It can't just be the crème of the crème, the top 5% of patients diagnosed with metastatic cancer.