There Are Too Many White People in Clinical Trials, and it’s a Bigger Problem Than You Think

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, white Americans still make up the overwhelming majority of clinical trials. Non-white people represent fewer than five percent of overall participants, and fewer than two percent of clinical cancer research studies focus specifically on minority groups.

Why is that a problem? Well, because research into cancer among minority groups is stalling at the same time as non-white Americans are bearing more of the country’s cancer burden. For instance, black Americans have the highest rates of cancer — and the shortest rates of survival — of any other racial group in the nation. The gap can be stark. Black women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. But African Americans represent just 1.3 percent of the participants in cancer clinical trials.

“The proportion of minorities in clinical research remains very low and is not representative of the U.S. population with cancer,” Moon Chen, the associate director for cancer control for UC Davis’ cancer center and the lead researcher of the study, explained in a press release about his findings. “What is needed is deliberate effort. Minorities are not hard to reach. They are hardly reached.”

Incorporating racial diversity into clinical trials is essential because certain treatments may not work as well for different populations. Researchers typically find that ethnic and geographic differences can affect how cancer progresses, so studying a range of different racial groups gives them better insight into how the disease can most effectively be combated. For instance, previous research has revealed that Asian patients suffering from lung cancer are more likely to possess a certain genetic mutation that affects the way they respond to traditional chemotherapy.

This is an issue that’s been plaguing the medical community for years. Back in 1993, Congress passed the Health Revitalization Act, which specifies that trials funded by the National Institute of Health must include non-white participants. But according to Chen and his fellow researchers, not much has progressed over the past two decades.

There’s racial disparity on the other end of NIH’s trials, too. A recent review of the agency’s grant data found that black scientists are systematically underfunded. Even when they have the same credentials as their white peers, black researchers are 10 percentage points less likely to win NIH funding for their projects. That likely contributes to the fact that research into diseases that disproportionately affect black people, like sickle cell anemia, also remains underfunded.

In fact, it’s not difficult to trace the impact of racial divides all the way through our public health sector. Even outside of the specific issue of cancer, black Americans are still dying younger than white Americans — largely because institutionalized structures of racism and poverty have contributed to a society in which African Americans are more likely to suffer from health issues yet less likely to receive quality health care.

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Michael T. says it very well. Thank you.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm3 years ago

HAHAHAHAHA Bhig nice rant. Meaningless but not shocking. There is PLENTY of racism alive and well in this country. Your refusal to see it doesnt make it go away. And of course there is racism agaisnt whites too. But surely not at the level that black hate is. But you go ahead and delude yourself. WE will jsut sit here and laugh at your ignorance.

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago


You are so funny. Your word games are amusing efforts in circular reasoning, note that I do not use the word logic as there is no logic in anything you have said. In other words you are a racist because you behave and act like a racist. Angered by that reality, especially when confronted by it, you have to perform this dance you are engaged in to throw off the cloak you wear in pretending you are superior to others. Your anger is that you have revealed to all who you are and if you can you will attempt to bully people into thinking that you are the one being attacked.

There are no code words, but you must create the illusion of such to give cover to who and what you are. The appellation that applies to you isn’t an attempt to create anger and violence, although here you are equating the very attempt to make whites angry will produce violence which is the implied threat by the bully in you.

And like the game being played by conservatives, you believe if you tell this lie, such as it is, often enough, you will convince some people to believe the circular thinking you are engaging in.

Must keep you warm and snugly at night.

Bhig R.
Bhig R.3 years ago

I had a friend who was ran out of a job through racial harrassment. After contacting over a dozen lawyers they all told him he could never take legal action for discrimination because he was WHITE

There is no such thing as "racism"

"Racism" is hate word used against WHITES and ONLY Whites to create anger and violence

Anti-Racist is just a codeword for Anti-White

Bhig R.
Bhig R.3 years ago

Michael T

So in other words you're saying i'm a evilnaziwhowantstokillsixmillionjewsandclonebabyhitler just because i''m WHITE, no other reason.

MmmHmm, looks like a so called "Anti-racist" who's really just Anti-White ;)

Anti-racist is just a codeword for Anti-White

Heather G.
Heather G3 years ago

If you think discrimination based on skin color and gender is a thing of the past go read the comments on the article about the Supreme Court refusing to take the case about the anti-gay photographer. Many of them say the discrimination because someone is black or gay is OK as long as the discriminator DOESN'T ADMIT IT!

Ernest Roth
Ernest R3 years ago

@ Geoff P."Are we not all human whatever shade we happen to be". Or "only human". depending on the context. @ Robert O ".there are too many white people in everything". There are too many people in everything, and there are fewer white people in the world than Asians or Africans. White people are no worse than non-white people but they have had a disproportional effect on the world.

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

Does anyone believe that this recent play in the Senate isn't about racism and misogyny on the part of the white male dominant sub-group to deny equality to minorities and women?

Senate falls six votes short of passing Paycheck Fairness Act

Despite a heavy messaging push from top Democrats, the Senate failed Wednesday to advance the Paycheck Fairness Act, aimed at cutting into the national gender wage gap.

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

Here is an example of one of the letters he received.

I copied it from the original website for the article.

Dear Mr. Ni&&er,

I hope you don’t break the Babe’s record. How do I tell my kids that a ni&&er did it. But it took, more at bats, live ball, and other ni&&er tricks. I wish you the worst at anything you do “Ni&&er!”

KKK (forever)

Nowadays, this form of rampant rabid racism isn't acceptable in society, but it doesn't mean it doesn't continue in other forms less visible.