PORTLAND, Oregon — Clinical trials are an important way for cancer patients to get help from promising, new therapies, but some people face obstacles taking part in them. A new program at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) is being developed to make clinical trials more inclusive.
Latino communities make up about 14% of Oregon’s population, but only 5% of cancer patients in interventional clinical trials in health care facilities across the state.
Dr. Eneida Nemecek is a professor at OHSU and the medical director of clinical research at the Knight Cancer Institute. Nemecek said diversity is good for the clinical trials themselves and for fairness to patients.
"It's also really important that the therapies that we're testing are a benefit to everybody," Nemecek said.
A $650,000 three-year grant from Genentech is funding the inclusivity program. The program is being developed in three stages and it's focused on Oregonians of Hispanic or Latin heritage.
The first step is to hold forums to learn about the needs and knowledge gaps in Latino communities. Then, an educational campaign will be developed to reach people across the state. The third step will be to hire a Spanish-speaking patient navigator to help people get into clinical trials and assist them in a number of different ways, including financial help and transportation.
"One of the the obstacles that Latino patients face when they enter the medical system is a communication barrier and we want that (patient navigator) person to be almost a community link," Nemecek said.
The goal is to make sure all people feel empowered to ask questions about their care, including if there is a clinical trial available to them and how to take advantage of it.
"That is a big step forward compared to where we are right now where people are without knowing that information… and we hope that what will happen in the end is that we can at least double the number of people from Hispanic-Latino background answering clinical trials," Nemecek said.
While the program will be focused on the Hispanic/Latino community, Nemecek said they expect it can become a model to reach other underserved communities as well.