Background: Racial/ethnic groups' participation in clinical trials is a relatively new area of research that warrants attention. Although racial/ethnic groups have been included in experimental studies since the 1940s, they were not included in significant numbers in clinical trials for cancer. Clinical trials play a dominant role in clinical oncology. Despite this state-of-the-art cancer treatment, however, there is mounting concern that this scientific progress is not being shared equitably by all segments of the U.S. population. There is underrepresentation of members of racial/ethnic groups in cancer clinical trials, which suggests that participation may be a critical issue. Unfortunately, little is known or documented about these groups' participation in clinical trials.
Methods: This paper discusses racial/ethnic groups' views and opinions about clinical trial participation. Diagnostic research was conducted as a beginning phase to investigate this new area of research. African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans in three Buffalo, New York, communities were selected as study subjects. Data were collected via telephone surveys. Qualitative methods were employed for data analysis and reporting.
Results: Findings showed that study subjects knew little about cancer clinical trials and basically had no opportunity to participate. They believed that participation in clinical trials could be beneficial. In each of the three groups, however, there were cultural factors believed to influence participation. A primary concern was "mistrust of white people" and the feeling of being treated like "guinea pigs."
Conclusions: Based on study findings, it was evident that recruitment for improving participation requires strategic planning that involves participants representative of the study population. To yield results, the plan should be tailored to the target group, presented as a credible study, designed to reflect trust in the medical care team, and implemented through a continuous educational process.