ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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NPR's Rachel Jones has the details.
RACHEL JONES: 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Three to 5 percent of cancer patients participate in clinical trials, which is how new treatments get developed.
CLAUDIA BAQUET: And of that 3 to 5 percent, less than 1 percent is African-American.
JONES: Deborah Baquet directs the Center for Health Disparity at the University of Maryland Baltimore's medical school. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: CLAUDIA BAQUET directs the Center for Health Disparity at the University of Maryland Baltimore's medical school.]
BAQUET: Yet, African-Americans have some of the highest death rates and poor survival rates of any population in the country.
JONES: Researchers agree one of the main reasons minorities don't participate in clinical trials is lack of trust. Most people have heard of the Tuskegee Experiment, which ran from 1932 until 1972. In that study, black men with syphilis weren't told about or treated for the disease, just studied. But Garth Graham says the distrust dynamic pre-dates Tuskegee...
GARTH GRAHAM: Back in the 1800s, a doctor Marion Simms, who is thought to be the father of modern gynecology. We know he specifically purchased African-American slaves to perfect gynecologic surgical procedures.
JONES: Graham's Deputy Assistant Secretary of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. He says, even though the government mandated increased minority participation back in the early '90s, the message didn't get through.
GRAHAM: If you look at much of the data on clinical trials, close to 89 percent of the individuals are from the majority population.
JONES: That's in federally funded research and in pharmaceutical company trials. Officials want to create a standard practice for recruiting minorities in clinical research. But Graham says all it really takes is some plain old common sense.
GRAHAM: How to talk to people. What are some of the perceived problems that people might already have based on history and things that they have experienced in their own personal life. And really helping these folks understand, how is it you talk to folks?
JONES: Graham says one-on-one conversations can go a long way in easing that distrust. The new initiative will help link doctors and researchers to community-based resources that can help educate minority communities.
GRAHAM: It's important for people to realize that that research is going to help not just yourself but can help your kids and your kids' kids and your children's children's children.
JONES: Rachel Jones, NPR News, Washington.
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