Blacks, Women and Elderly Missed in Lung Cancer Trials

Blacks, Women and Elderly Missed in Lung Cancer Trials

Minorities, older people and women less likely to be part of drug trials that might do them good.

Published July 6, 2011

(Photo: Hans-Juergen Wiedl/Landov)


A study presented at the 14th World Conference on Lung Cancer, held in Amsterdam in July, reveals that minorities, older people and women are less likely to take part in drug trials that might do them good. Their numbers in the data also do not reflect the frequency of the disease in their populations. 


According to an article in, African-Americans develop lung cancer at higher rates (72.7 per 100,000) than Caucasians (68 per 100,000). But only 2 percent of the trial participants were black. Caucasians comprised 78 percent of trial subjects, Asians 15 percent, Hispanics 2 percent and "other" 2 percent.


When one drills into the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) the results are striking. The SEER site shows that between 2004 and 2008, the most recent capture point of data, the lung cancer incidence rates for Black men were 99.8 per 100,000, and for Black women were 54.7 per 100,000 women, compared to 75.3 per 100,000 white men and a relatively similar 54.6 per 100,000 white women.


Researchers reached their conclusions based upon data collected during the last decade for FDA drug approvals to treat non-small cell lung cancer.


The principal investigator of this research is Dr. Shakun Malik, a medical officer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He said that the “disparity was especially pronounced in the age and ethnicity."


That led him to the conclusion that the people who need it most may not be getting the appropriate treatment for lung cancer as “the trial population used for approval of drugs do not represent well the U.S. population who may receive the marketed agent.”


The Amsterdam conference is sponsored by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.

Written by Frank McCoy


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