A study involving breast cancer patients of Latin ethnicity evaluated the efficacy of using culturally-sensitive computer-based videos in increasing awareness and knowledge of clinical trials. The findings of this research were presented during the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved. This study was particularly important as it helped address two pressing concerns in biomedical research: the difficulty in recruiting participants in clinical studies due to lack of awareness and prevalence of misconceptions, and the underrepresentation of Latinos in research.
According to Patricia Chalela, DrPH, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Latinos comprise 17% of the country’s population, but account for only 5.6% of all participants in clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute. This underrepresentation causes costly disparities in the results of clinical trials, and consequently, in expected patient outcomes.
While the study is still in its last year of recruitment, the researchers, led by Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, director of the IHPR, have successfully enrolled 71 participants. They were randomly grouped to receive either usual-care clinical trial information, or additional information via culturally-sensitive video, reading material, and an assistive encounter with a patient navigator. The findings showed the group that received additional information had significantly better awareness and knowledge of clinical trials. The researchers found that willingness to participate in a clinical trial increased from a baseline of 38% to 75%.
The findings suggest that this intervention to address minority underrepresentation in research works two-fold, in that it addresses language barriers, and allows easier absorption of information through the use of multimedia. Chalela and her colleagues are pleased with the results of their study and can see this approach being applied to patients of other ethnicities who are afflicted with diseases other than breast cancer.
While the underrepresentation of Latinas in breast cancer research is a cause for concern, a study from the University of California in San Francisco actually suggests Hispanic women may have a much lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to women of other ethnicities, based on analysis of a specific genetic variant.