With participation rates in prostate cancer clinical trials typically in the 3 to 5 percentile range, African American patients are not represented in large enough numbers to determine how effective new treatments for this disease are for us.

A call to action

Efforts are underway to pinpoint the exact reasons that African American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at a rate 60 percent higher and die from the disease at a 130 percent higher rate than all other men. However, while this work is being pursued new prostate cancer treatments are continuing to be developed and approved to treat the disease through clinical trial studies. From these trials doctors are now focusing on using genetic profiles to determine which treatment are best for individual patients; referred to as personalized or precision medicine. African American participation in these trials needs to increase to statistically meaningful levels to provide the information necessary that can help reduce our exceedingly high prostate cancer death rate. 

"Our mission is to eliminate the prostate cancer racial disparity, and it is mandatory that we breach the clinical trials barrier."

In addition, there are immediate benefits for patients who participate in prostate cancer clinical trials that African American patients should take advantage of. First, clinical trials are treatment options where patients will receive the standard of care and study medications at no cost. In today’s era of expensive cancer treatments this can provide access to treatments and expert care that may not otherwise be affordable. Also, if the treatment being studied is more effective that the standard treatment those in the trial will be among the first to benefit.

Ensuring safety

I am well aware of the history of medical experimentation in this country where our fore parents suffered at the hands of unscrupulous doctors for the benefit of others, creating a mistrust of our medical system that still lingers. However, today there are laws and review boards for all of the medical institutions participating in clinical trials that governs them and insures patient safety and trust.

Our mission is to eliminate the prostate cancer racial disparity, and it is mandatory that we breach the clinical trials barrier. As we outreach around the country with our educational programs we are finding that the vast majority of those that attend are willing to consider participating in trials once they understand the benefits and risks. However, we cannot reach everyone so I am encouraging all African American prostate cancer patients to ask in.

There are clinical trials available for almost every stage of prostate cancer treatment and care from initial diagnosis to advanced disease. Ask your doctor to identify and explain the benefits and risk for a clinical trial that you can consider as a treatment option at your stage. Ask in.