NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Women and Blacks are Included in Cancer Studies

December 30, 1999

The number of women and blacks in cancer studies has grown substantially in the last decade, says a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Underrepresentation of women and minorities among the participants in medical research, such as clinical trials of new drugs, has been an ongoing issue. For example, some drugs might have different effects -- or differing degrees of effectiveness -- for women and other groups. Concern has also been expressed that equal access to potentially life-saving experimental drugs available only to test subjects has been denied underrepresented groups.

  • Federal rules drafted in the late 1980s and early '90s required that the number of blacks and women in studies increase to make their enrollment equal to the proportion of Americans who have the diseases being studied.
  • Review of data from 164 studies found that the goal for blacks and women had been met.
  • But there is no goal for participation by the elderly, and the report found that while 63 percent of cancer patients were over 65, they made up just 25 percent of the people in cancer studies.

The review was conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group, a cooperative financed by the National Cancer Institute.

Source: Associated Press, "Cancer Studies Meet Goal for Women and Blacks," New York Times, December 30, 1999; Laura F. Hutchins, et al., "Underrepresentation of Patients 65 Years of Age or Older in Cancer-Treatment Trials," New England Journal of Medicine, December 30, 1999.


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