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Black and African American citizens are underserved by cancer treatments

How to address ethic divisions in healthcare provision? An AI-driven health intelligence company is aiming to solve this.

Architects, designers, and general contractors tour DIRTT’s redesigned Chicago Experience Center at the company’s annual event, Connext.
Architects, designers, and general contractors tour DIRTT’s redesigned Chicago Experience Center at the company’s annual event, Connext. – Photo courtesy DIRTT
Architects, designers, and general contractors tour DIRTT’s redesigned Chicago Experience Center at the company’s annual event, Connext. – Photo courtesy DIRTT

Black and African American individuals have higher mortality rates than all other ethnic groups for many cancer types, medical data reveals. What is the underlying reason?

One study suggests that this is not centred on genetics but reflective of a lack of adequate healthcare access and a lack of diversity in clinical trials. As detailed in one study: “The American health care system is beset with inequalities that have a disproportionate impact on people of color and other marginalized groups. These inequalities contribute to gaps in health insurance coverage, uneven access to services, and poorer health outcomes among certain populations.”

Low participation of Black Americans in cancer clinical trials is a well-established predicament. A review in the journal JCO Oncology Practice concluded: “Many factors resulted in this current dilemma with racism being the fundamental unit.”

The primary challenge for the development of medicines, especially in the current ear of personalised (or precision) medicines is where most information in current clinical-genomic datasets comes from patients of European descent. Personalised medicine provides doctors with data to better understand the complex biological and environmental mechanisms underlying a patient’s health.

Similarly, many clinical trials are underrepresented by certain racial and ethnic groups, limiting understanding of drug efficacy and toxicity in certain populations.

In response, an AI-driven health intelligence company is aiming to solve this. The company is Sema4 and it is running a disparities in cancer care study, titled the ‘REsearch to advance PREciSion medicine and health Equity in oNcology Treatment’ (REPRESENT) study.

The study is designed to run throughout the U.S. for patients with advanced cancer in diverse populations. The aim is to provide these underserved communities with access to comprehensive genetic and genomic testing.

The hope is that the level of testing planned will and will create one of the most diverse clinical-genomic datasets in history.

According to oncologist and Sema4 Chief Medical Science Officer, William Oh, MD: “This is an unprecedented era in novel cancer therapies, but, unfortunately, precision oncology treatment is not delivered uniformly to all patients. By better understanding the genomic landscape of cancer in underserved populations, we hope to enable personalized care and uncover treatment patterns within these communities and ensure patient diversity in the development of cancer research, trials, and therapeutics.”

The observational study sets put to enrol up to 5,000 advanced-stage cancer patients. The data and samples gathered from consenting patients will be used to establish a clinical-genomic patient registry and biobank.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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