Increasing accrual of minority patients in breast cancer clinical trials



Black and Hispanic patients participate in clinical trials at lower rates than white patients nationally; lack of diversity in clinical trials prevents appropriate safety and efficacy testing of new treatments in these populations.


The Oncology Welcomes New Haven into Trials (OWN IT) initiative at the Yale Cancer Center used a multi-tiered approach to improve breast cancer minority clinical trial accrual through community focus groups, ongoing community outreach, institutional executive council representation, grand rounds presentation, and didactic lectures with healthcare providers. Eligibility criteria of breast cancer trials at Smilow Cancer Center were reviewed using Also, an anonymous, 5-min survey was conducted at regular visits with Smilow Breast Center patients to gauge awareness of and access to clinical trials. Survey data were compared to the Yale Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office, Connecticut Tumor Registry, and U.S. Census records. Two-tailed Fisher’s tests were used for all analyses.


There was a significant increase in the number of minority patients who participated in clinical trials at Smilow Cancer Center from 2016 (95/750) to 2018 (155/944) (p = 0.0325). Two hundred patients participated in the survey; response rate 92%. There was no significant difference in the rate at which patients were invited to participate in clinical trials or the rate at which they declined to participate based on race or ethnicity. Black and Hispanic patients were significantly less likely to be aware of clinical trials than white patients (p < .001). The review of eligibility criteria showed that over half of the studies reviewed had restrictions regarding increased liver function tests, and many restricted the participation of patients with other chronic conditions.


Low participation in clinical trials among black and Hispanic patients is likely multifaceted. This study indicated that there are likely structural factors at work which can be modified with institutional effort. The role of patient education regarding clinical trials and accrual should be studied further as should eligibility criteria as a potential barrier to participation.

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Data Availability

The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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Author information




AT, LW, WA, JD, and AS all contributed to writing the patient survey and conducting the survey with participants. AT and CH analyzed the patient survey data. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript and all read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amelia A. Trant.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board of record at Yale University

Informed Consent

Informed consent form was provided to all participants prior to enrollment.

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Trant, A.A., Walz, L., Allen, W. et al. Increasing accrual of minority patients in breast cancer clinical trials. Breast Cancer Res Treat 184, 499–505 (2020).

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  • Breast cancer
  • Clinical trials
  • Health disparities
  • Eligibility criteria