By Hinde Kast
February 8, 2023
To reduce health disparities and advance health equity, it is crucial that people from diverse backgrounds participate in clinical trials, so researchers can better understand the risks as well as the benefits novel treatments present to different populations.
Now, a two-year grant from Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C) will fund a new program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center to eliminate barriers and facilitate access to early phase cancer clinical trials in traditionally underserved communities in Los Angeles County. This grant was funded as part of the SU2C Diversity in Early Development Clinical Trials Research Grants Program and is supported by a sponsorship from Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. As a part of SU2C’s Health Equity Initiative, the program aims to create unique and replicable approaches that engage medically underserved communities in Phase 1 and Phase 2 cancer clinical trials.
“We are very excited to work with SU2C to improve access to early therapeutic trials among diverse patients through an innovative collaboration with hospitals that serve underrepresented patients within the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, the Lazarex Foundation, and the Men’s Cancer Network,” said Chanita Hughes Halbert, PhD, associate director for cancer equity at USC Norris cancer center. “By working collaboratively with these stakeholders, we will be able to develop, implement, and evaluate multilevel approaches to improve referrals to early phase trials and enhance enrollment outcomes.”
Co-led by Anthony El-Khoueiry, MD, associate director for clinical research at the cancer center, and Dr. Hughes Halbert, the research team will implement a project entitled Eliminating Enrollment Barriers to Early Phase Trials in a Diverse Population in Los Angeles County. The team will first identify barriers to referral of underserved patients from the center’s diverse catchment area for early phase therapeutic trials. They will then implement and evaluate a multilevel, multi-component program for removing those barriers and improving early phase therapeutic trials referral and enrollment among underserved patients and explore the impact of remote clinical trials on enhancing the enrollment of these patients.
“Cancer clinical trial diversity in Los Angeles needs to be improved significantly to represent and serve our underserved communities,” said Dr. El-Khoueiry, who is also an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Through a more strategic, collaborative approach with oncology care providers, facilitated referral and recruitment processes involving private and public health systems collaboration, a more targeted review of our patient demographics and further exploration of remote clinical trials, we hope to advance cancer health equity by facilitating access to early phase trials among our community’s medically underserved patients.”
Additionally, as part of the project, USC Norris cancer center researchers will participate in the SU2C Community Engagement Innovation Summit, connecting with other leaders in health equity to identify common goals and approaches to overcome existing barriers through community outreach.
“The SU2C Diversity in Early Development Clinical Trials Research Grant Program offers a unique opportunity to leverage USC Norris faculty members’ extensive experience increasing access to clinical trials among individuals historically underrepresented in trials,” said Caryn Lerman PhD, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, H. Leslie and Elaine S. Hoffman Chair in Cancer Research, and associate dean for cancer programs in the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Leveraging the center’s robust early phase clinical trials program, this team aims to develop scalable models to advance equity in clinical trials.”
Additional researchers on the team include Jacob Thomas, MD, Jorge Nieva, MD, Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, PhD, Myles Cockburn, PhD and Jennifer Tsui, PhD, all members of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and faculty from the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
SU2C raises funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking research that provides new therapies to patients quickly and saves lives now. By galvanizing the entertainment industry, SU2C has set out to generate awareness, educate the public on cancer prevention, and help more people diagnosed with cancer become long-term survivors.
About USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
At the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, more than 250 dedicated physicians and scientists are leading the fight to make cancer a disease of the past. As one of the eight original National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States, USC Norris has revolutionized cancer research, treatment, and prevention for nearly 50 years. Multidisciplinary teams provide the latest evidence-based care at USC Norris Cancer Hospital, a 60-bed hospital, as well as outpatient clinics throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.
For more information, visit https://uscnorriscancer.usc.edu