Elderly cancer patients are significantly under-represented in cancer clinical trials

also appear in the November 15 issue of the JCO.

The project, a partnership of Rapid City Regional Hospital, the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Mayo Rochester Comprehensive Cancer Center, was awarded a five-year $5.4 million grant from NCI's Cancer Disparities Research Partnership (CDRP) to lower cancer mortality rates, and increase clinical trial participation among Native Americans, who experience higher cancer death rates than the general population largely because they are often diagnosed with more advanced stages of disease.

The project focuses on the Lakota (Western Sioux) population in South Dakota and has three main objectives: to identify the major factors responsible for health care disparities among Native Americans served by Rapid City Regional Hospital; to determine whether shorter, but equally effective courses of treatment will enhance the acceptability and completion rate of radiotherapy; and to establish whether there is a genetic basis for anecdotal reports that Native Americans experience greater side effects from radiation therapy.

Researchers noted that a number of geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers keep Native Americans from accessing clinical trials and other components of quality cancer care. They found that the distance between the hospital and reservation (average of 110 miles) is often so great that many Native Americans cannot complete a full course of radiation, which typically lasts 6-8 weeks. In addition, cultural beliefs may influence Native Americans to rely solely on traditional healers instead of seeking care at a cancer clinic.

To address these issues, the researchers designed clinical trials involving innovative therapies that will shorten treatment time significantly, to 1-4 weeks. Therapies include helical tomotherapy and brachytherapy, which target the cancerous tissue while avoiding nearby healthy tissue.

In addition, the project includes

Contact: Danielle Potuto
American Society of Clinical Oncology

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