KU Cancer Center Launches Campaign to Increase Minority Participation in Clinical Trials

December 9, 2021

CiCi Rojas, president of Tico Productions, and a cancer survivor and former clinical trial participant

CiCi Rojas, president of Tico Productions, and a cancer survivor and former clinical trial participant, is helping lead a multicultural campaign in partnership with the KU Cancer Center to encourage clinical trial participation in minorities across the re

Minority populations suffer from cancer disproportionately, yet current clinical research data for minorities is scarce. According to 2020 Food and Drug Administration data, 73% of clinical trial participants were white, 14% Asian, 6% Hispanic and 5% Black.

The University of Kansas Cancer Center, the region’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center, conducts early-phase clinical trials at the KU Clinical Research Center (CRC). The CRC, funded by the Johnson County Educational Research Triangle (JCERT) tax supports researchers’ efforts to develop, test and bring new cancer therapies to those living in the KU Cancer Center’s catchment area, which includes Kansas and western Missouri. The CRC is particularly focused on helping populations who are at an increased risk of developing or dying from cancer.

In the Kansas City region, the overall population is becoming much more diverse. To combat disparities, in partnership with multicultural marketing agency Tico Productions, LLC, The University of Kansas Cancer Center is launching a multicultural campaign to encourage clinical trial participation in minorities across the region. This campaign will dispel myths that drive low enrollment in these communities, showcase success stories by collaborating with community influencers and relevant artists and creators and, ultimately, encourage more minority populations to enroll in life-saving research.

“It is so important that we have trial participation of people of different races, ethnicities and ages so we can learn how new medicines work in a cross-section of people,” said Tara L. Lin, MD, medical director, Clinical Trials Office at KU Cancer Center. “Many early-phase clinical trials include lab testing to better understand how high treatment drug levels get in the body or how the liver or kidney breaks down the medicine. Having a diverse clinical trial population makes sure we are asking these questions in patients of different backgrounds.

"We need all people to participate for the most accurate understanding of biological differences – no matter the scope or stage. Education on the importance of clinical trial participation helps raise needed awareness and allows for a better understanding of preventative measures.”

A Campaign to Ease Myths and Fears

A highlight of the multicultural campaign includes a participatory mural dedicated to showcasing the “why” – educating community members on the benefits of clinical trials led by people they know and trust.

“Referencing Tico’s work, we know that we need to show up in non-traditional spaces and start the messaging there,” said CiCi Rojas, president of Tico Productions, LLC, and a cancer survivor who participated in a clinical trial. “We understand that younger generations in minority communities are bringing information and educational opportunities home, and you start to see results when you can build trust amongst generations.”

As the CRC begins to engage all communities, it has found that patient-provider discussions emerge as crucial for increasing clinical-trial awareness among patients. Initial campaign findings report that many minorities do not have these discussions with their physicians, contributing to enrollment barriers. Additionally, some people fear the financial burden of participation, have a general distrust due to the spread of misinformation and are unsure of the overall logistics. The CRC is working to authentically instill trust across generations of minorities.

The Johnson County Educational Research Triangle tax has been instrumental in the CRC’s efforts to share the most up-to-date research with all communities. This support has brought the multicultural campaign to life, allowing the CRC to ask important questions on perceptions, current outreach methods and more. The opportunity to engage with those unfamiliar with or hesitant about clinical trials helps the CRC better understand how to educate all people across the region.

Those interested in learning more about the clinical trial process can download the “KUCC Clinical Trial Finder” app. This tool allows physicians to identify and refer patients directly to the cancer center’s screening team. Participants can access all open trials at KU Cancer Center. Data is updated daily with the latest details on new and existing trials.

To find out more about the KU Cancer Center Clinical Trial Multicultural Campaign, contact Hope Krebill at hkrebill@kumc.edu.