Reporting of Study Participant Demographic Characteristics and Demographic Representation in Premarketing and Postmarketing Studies of Novel Cancer Therapeutics

JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Apr 1;4(4):e217063. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.7063.


Importance: Adequate representation of demographic subgroups in premarketing and postmarketing clinical studies is necessary for understanding the safety and efficacy associated with novel cancer therapeutics.

Objective: To characterize and compare the reporting of demographic data and the representation of individuals by sex, age, and race in premarketing and postmarketing studies used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to evaluate novel cancer therapeutics.

Design, setting, and participants: In this cross-sectional study, premarketing and postmarketing studies for novel cancer therapeutics approved by the FDA from 2012 through 2016 were identified. Study demographic information was abstracted from publicly available sources, and US cancer population demographic data was abstracted from US Cancer Statistics. Analyses were conducted from February 25 through September 21, 2020.

Main outcomes and measures: The percentages of trials reporting sex, age, and race/ethnicity were calculated, and participation to prevalence ratios (PPRs) were calculated by dividing the percentage of study participants in each demographic group by the percentage of the US cancer population in each group. PPRs were constructed for premarketing and postmarketing studies and by cancer type. Underrepresentation was defined as PPR less than 0.8.

Results: From 2012 through 2016, the FDA approved 45 cancer therapeutics. The study sample included 77 premarketing studies and 56 postmarketing studies. Postmarketing studies, compared with premarketing studies, were less likely to report patient sex (42 studies reporting [75.0%] vs 77 studies reporting [100%]; P < .001) and race (27 studies reporting [48.2%] vs 62 studies reporting [80.5%]; P < .001). Women were adequately represented in premarketing studies (mean [SD] PPR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.90-0.91) and postmarketing studies (mean PPR, 1.00; 95% CI, 1.00-1.01). Although older adults and Black patients were underrepresented in premarketing studies (older adults: mean PPR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.72-0.74; Black patients: mean PPR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.31-0.32), these groups continued to be underrepresented in postmarketing studies (older adults: mean PPR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.75-0.76; Black patients: mean PPR, 0.21; 95% CI, 0.21-0.21).

Conclusions and relevance: This study found that older adults and Black patients were underrepresented in postmarketing studies of novel cancer therapeutics to a similar degree that they were underrepresented in premarketing studies. These findings suggest that postmarketing studies are not associated with improvements to gaps in demographic representation present at the time of FDA approval.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asian / statistics & numerical data*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing
  • Research Subjects / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*


  • Antineoplastic Agents