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Original Investigation
August 15, 2019

Disparity of Race Reporting and Representation in Clinical Trials Leading to Cancer Drug Approvals From 2008 to 2018

Author Affiliations
  • 1BC Cancer, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
  • 3Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Seattle, Washington
  • 4Baylor University, Waco, Texas
JAMA Oncol. Published online August 15, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.1870
Key Points

Question  What is the status of reporting and representation of racial/ethnic groups in landmark trials leading to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of oncology drugs?

Findings  In 230 trials leading to FDA oncology drug approvals over the past decade, race was reported in only 145 (63%) trials. Compared with whites (98% of expected proportion), blacks (22% of expected proportion) and Hispanics (44% of expected proportion) were underrepresented in these trials relative to their proportion among the US cancer population.

Meaning  Suboptimal race reporting and representation (especially in blacks and Hispanics) occurs regularly in landmark oncology trials and increased efforts are needed to enhance minority representation and eliminate these disparities.


Importance  Representative racial/ethnic participation in research, especially in clinical trials that establish standards of care, is necessary to minimize disparities in outcomes and to uphold societal equity in health care.

Objective  To evaluate the frequency of race reporting and proportional race representation in trials supporting US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oncology drug approvals.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Database study of all reported trials supporting FDA oncology drug approvals granted between July 2008 and June 2018. Primary reports of trials were obtained from PubMed and ClinicalTrials.gov. Food and Drug Administration approvals were identified using the FDA archives. The US population-based cancer estimates by race were calculated using National Cancer Institute–Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results and US Census databases.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Primary outcomes were the proportion of trials reporting race and the proportion of patients by race participating in trials. Secondary outcomes included race subgroup analyses reporting and gaps between race proportion in trials and the US population. Descriptive statistics, Fisher exact, and χ2 tests were used to analyze the data. Proportions and odds ratios (OR) with 95% CIs were reported.

Results  Among 230 trials with a total of 112 293 participants, 145 (63.0%) reported on at least 1 race, 18 (7.8%) documented the 4 major races in the United States (white, Asian, black, and Hispanic), and 58 (25.2%) reported race subgroup analyses. Reporting on white, Asian, black, and Hispanic races was included in 144 (62.6%), 110 (47.8%), 88 (38.2%), and 23 (10.0%) trials, respectively. Between July 2008 and June 2013 vs July 2013 and June 2018, the number of trials reporting race (45 [56.6%] vs 100 [67.1%]; OR, 1.63; 95% CI, 0.93-2.87; P = .09) and race subgroup analysis (13 [16.1%] vs 45 [30.2%]; OR, 2.26, 95% CI, 1.16-4.67; P = .03) changed minimally and varied across races. Whites, Asians, blacks, and Hispanics represented 76.3%, 18.3%, 3.1% and 6.1% of trial participants, respectively, and the proportion for each race enrolled over time changed nominally (blacks, 3.6% vs 2.9% and Hispanics, 5.3% vs 6.7%) from July 2008 to June 2013 vs July 2013 to June 2018. Compared with their proportion of US cancer incidence, blacks (22% of expected) and Hispanics (44% of expected) were underrepresented compared with whites (98% of expected) and Asians (438% of expected).

Conclusions and Relevance  Race and race subgroup analysis reporting occurs infrequently, and black and Hispanic races are consistently underrepresented compared with their burden of cancer incidence in landmark trials that led to FDA oncology drug approvals. Enhanced minority engagement is needed in trials to ensure the validity of results and reliable benefits to all.