Collaboration set to improve diversity of patients in clinical trials

Press release posted September 2023

The Christie is taking part in a new pilot project aimed at increasing the number of Black, Asian and ethnic minority patients taking part in potentially life-enhancing breast cancer clinical trials.

Supported by the NHS Race and Health Observatory and in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, the collaboration with Roche Products Ltd and 2 NHS trusts – Bart’s Health NHS Trust in London and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester – is aiming to improve health equity in breast cancer clinical trial representation by raising awareness, improving communications and providing longer-term support to patients.

The project – running for a year – will design new ways for people with breast cancer to access clinical trials and better information processes. It will also involve recruitment of two specialist nurses – 1 at The Christie and 1 at Bart’s Health – employed to work closely with patients and give them 1-on-1 support throughout the process. Men, who account for 1% of breast cancer patients in the UK, will also be included.

Professor David Thomson, consultant oncologist at The Christie, is involved in the project. He said:

“1 in 2 of us will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in our lives. As a result, it’s really important that the research we do at The Christie is inclusive of the diverse population we have here in the North West.

“Unfortunately, patients with breast cancer, and indeed all types of cancer, from ethnic minority backgrounds are currently underrepresented in clinical trials. By taking a targeted and culturally sensitive approach, we’re going to address that. It’s fantastic to be involved, the project has so much potential.”

Multiple barriers around recruitment, communication and retention of Black, Asian and ethnic minority patients exist in clinical trials. Historically, data from across the UK show people from an ethnic minority background are poorly underrepresented in many clinical trials with granular data limited.

Current research from the UK Health Security Agency and Breast Cancer.Org also show that when it comes to breast cancer, young Black women in particular have more aggressive tumour profiles, present with later stages of disease, have higher mortality rates, and experience poorer cancer care, further strengthening the rationale to increase participation from these groups in clinical trials.

The project is still in its early stages, but since the collaboration started it has identified a number of potential solutions to improve representation, including:

  • Developing action plans to improve representation of people from Black and ethnic minority communities into breast cancer clinical trials
  • Creating new marketing materials targeted at the communities the project is aiming to reach
  • Increasing data, comparative baselines and patient retention records for research purposes
  • Providing enhanced support to ensure breast cancer patients understand the disease, what clinical research is and navigating patients to suitable clinical trials.

Recruitment advertising for the 2 specialist nursing posts will run from October 2023.

Jasmin shares her story of being on a trial

Jasmin David is a 53-year-old breast cancer patient from Fallowfield in south Manchester. 2 years after her initial diagnosis and treatment at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, she was told that the cancer had come back and had spread to her lungs, lymph nodes and chest bone. She was given the devastating news that she had less than a year to live.

Jasmin David
Photo caption: Jasmin David

Luckily Jasmin was offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Manchester Clinical Research Facility (CRF) at The Christie. She is now cancer free and living her life to the full.

“If I hadn’t gone on the trial at The Christie, I wouldn’t be here today. I have two children and now I get to be there for them as they grow up. Research gave me a second chance at life and I’m relishing every second of it.

“I want everyone, no matter their ethnicity, to have equal access to clinical trials, so I’m glad that this important piece of work is being done. I hope that by sharing my story I can inspire more women like me to come forward and take part in clinical trials.”

Last updated: September 2023