Henry Ford Cancer Institute Aims to Increase Minority Participation in Clinical Trials

Evelyn Jiagge, MD, PhD, Lead Investigator, Henry Ford Breast Cancer Research

Henry Ford Cancer Institute is launching the Participatory Action for Access to Clinical Trials (PAACT) project to dramatically improve the representation of the African American community and other minorities in cancer clinical trials.

Supported by a $750,000 grant from Genentech, PAACT is a community-based research initiative in collaboration with the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center that will address various barriers to trust and participation in clinical trials. Researchers and community partners will focus on clinical trials involving breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers, which are more likely to result in death for African Americans when compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

The project is being implemented in partnership with community-based organizations and community leaders who are key stakeholders. The team of more than 25 researchers expects to complete the project in late December 2022.

Evelyn Jiagge, MD, PhD, the principal investigator of the PAACT project, serves as the lead investigator of Henry Ford Breast Cancer Research, and has collaborated with nine organizations in Ghana and Tanzania to study the genetic origins of aggressive triple negative breast cancer, which disproportionately affects women of African descent. Jiagge is extending her research findings to communities in Detroit.

Precision drugs and interventions being studied at Jiagge’s laboratory are based on genetic markers. “If tumors of African American women are not represented in clinical trials, it impairs our ability to provide patients with the best possible treatment options,” she says. “We can’t change the past, but we have to ask, ‘How do we work together to change the future?’ African Americans have told us they want to be present in the design of the clinical trial so they know what’s involved and who will be accountable.”

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“This project specifically addresses the underrepresentation of minority participation in research, and we believe that by partnering, we will be able to engage our organization’s diverse East Michigan community to help address the challenges in cancer research and health systems,” says Emmanuel Addo, president of the Ghana Association in Michigan, a partner organization within PAACT.

In addition to conducting focus groups and interviews in diverse communities, researchers will interview healthcare professionals to identify any biases and clarify misunderstandings about the role of the healthcare system in non-involvement of Blacks/African Americans in clinical trials.

Based on the findings, PAACT will develop and test pilot interventions in the community and the health system aimed at eliminating barriers to inclusion.

“We hope the solutions we find can be integrated into health systems and be scalable to other African American communities nationwide and people with African descent globally,” Jiagge says.

Edited by Gary Cramer