Barriers to Clinical Trial Enrollment in Racial and Ethnic Minority Patients With Cancer

Cancer Control. 2016 Oct;23(4):327-337. doi: 10.1177/107327481602300404.


Background: Clinical trials that study cancer are essential for testing the safety and effectiveness of promising treatments, but most people with cancer never enroll in a clinical trial - a challenge exemplified in racial and ethnic minorities. Underenrollment of racial and ethnic minorities reduces the generalizability of research findings and represents a disparity in access to high-quality health care.

Methods: Using a multilevel model as a framework, potential barriers to trial enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities were identified at system, individual, and interpersonal levels. Exactly how each level directly or indirectly contributes to doctor-patient communication was also reviewed. Selected examples of implemented interventions are included to help address these barriers. We then propose our own evidence-based intervention addressing barriers at the individual and interpersonal levels.

Results: Barriers to enrolling a diverse population of patients in clinical trials are complex and multilevel. Interventions focused at each level have been relatively successful, but multilevel interventions have the greatest potential for success.

Conclusion: To increase the enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials, future interventions should address barriers at multiple levels.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups
  • Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Patient Selection