Clinical trials are an important part of the fight against cancer, but minority participation in these trials has always been low. Enabling Minority Participation in Clinical Trials, or EMPaCT, is the newest initiative to come out of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and it plans to turn this trend around. The NCMHHD is throwing $3.8 million toward the effort in the form of an 18-month grant, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“If we want to achieve the goal of customized therapy, we need to know a lot about how people are different, so we can tailor therapy to the individual’s specific genetic metabolic makeup,” says Moon Chen, an EMPaCT principal investigator and professor in the UC Davis Division of Hematology and Oncology. Disproportionate numbers of cancer survival and mortality rates among racial and ethnic minorities make the need for change all the more pressing.

UC Davis Cancer Center is partnering with the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center, which is leading the project. These five centers will work together to pinpoint causes, like language and cultural barriers, and to later recommend and implement changes based on their findings.

Studies have already shown that the current advertisements for clinical trials aren’t attracting minority candidates. Instead, researchers are shifting their focus to the role of nurses and physicians in helping their patients better understand clinical trials. Hopefully, more patient interaction will dispel some of the myths surrounding these trials and improve minority participation.

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