Disparity of Race Reporting and Representation in Clinical Trials Leading to Cancer Drug Approvals From 2008 to 2018

JAMA Oncol. 2019 Oct 1;5(10):e191870. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.1870. Epub 2019 Oct 10.


Importance: Representative racial/ethnic participation in research, especially in clinical trials that establish standards of care, is necessary to minimize disparities in outcomes and to uphold societal equity in health care.

Objective: To evaluate the frequency of race reporting and proportional race representation in trials supporting US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oncology drug approvals.

Design, setting, and participants: Database study of all reported trials supporting FDA oncology drug approvals granted between July 2008 and June 2018. Primary reports of trials were obtained from PubMed and ClinicalTrials.gov. Food and Drug Administration approvals were identified using the FDA archives. The US population-based cancer estimates by race were calculated using National Cancer Institute-Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results and US Census databases.

Main outcomes and measures: Primary outcomes were the proportion of trials reporting race and the proportion of patients by race participating in trials. Secondary outcomes included race subgroup analyses reporting and gaps between race proportion in trials and the US population. Descriptive statistics, Fisher exact, and χ2 tests were used to analyze the data. Proportions and odds ratios (OR) with 95% CIs were reported.

Results: Among 230 trials with a total of 112 293 participants, 145 (63.0%) reported on at least 1 race, 18 (7.8%) documented the 4 major races in the United States (white, Asian, black, and Hispanic), and 58 (25.2%) reported race subgroup analyses. Reporting on white, Asian, black, and Hispanic races was included in 144 (62.6%), 110 (47.8%), 88 (38.2%), and 23 (10.0%) trials, respectively. Between July 2008 and June 2013 vs July 2013 and June 2018, the number of trials reporting race (45 [56.6%] vs 100 [67.1%]; OR, 1.63; 95% CI, 0.93-2.87; P = .09) and race subgroup analysis (13 [16.1%] vs 45 [30.2%]; OR, 2.26, 95% CI, 1.16-4.67; P = .03) changed minimally and varied across races. Whites, Asians, blacks, and Hispanics represented 76.3%, 18.3%, 3.1% and 6.1% of trial participants, respectively, and the proportion for each race enrolled over time changed nominally (blacks, 3.6% vs 2.9% and Hispanics, 5.3% vs 6.7%) from July 2008 to June 2013 vs July 2013 to June 2018. Compared with their proportion of US cancer incidence, blacks (22% of expected) and Hispanics (44% of expected) were underrepresented compared with whites (98% of expected) and Asians (438% of expected).

Conclusions and relevance: Race and race subgroup analysis reporting occurs infrequently, and black and Hispanic races are consistently underrepresented compared with their burden of cancer incidence in landmark trials that led to FDA oncology drug approvals. Enhanced minority engagement is needed in trials to ensure the validity of results and reliable benefits to all.