Amgen Contributes to Nonprofit to Support Greater Diversity in Clinical Trials

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Amgen provided $2 million to the nonprofit Lazarex Cancer Foundation to support an effort to improve minority patient access to the potentially life-saving drugs in oncology clinical trials.

Amgen’s contribution will go to Lazarex's IMPACT (IMproving Patient Access to Cancer Clinical Trials) program, which is focused on improving patient enrollment, retention, minority participation and equitable access in oncology trials. The Lazarex Cancer Foundation’s mission is to improve patient access to those trials.

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In September, BioSpace highlighted a lack of diversity in clinical trials, compared to the prevalence of certain cancers among the races. As an example, African Americans make up 20 percent of U.S. multiple myeloma patients and are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease. However, African Americans have only accounted for 4.5 percent of participants in multiple myeloma trials since 2003. One of the key reasons for including a more diverse patient population is the fact that some drugs have been shown to be more effective in certain racial groups. For example, in a post-marketing study, Johnson & Johnson found that the prostate cancer drug Zytiga worked better in black men than white men.

A study published in Cancer in 2014 found that only two percent of clinical trials run by the National Cancer Institute focus on any racial or minority population as their primary emphasis, the Lazarex Cancer Foundation said in its statement.

The IMPACT program is aimed at creating a “new standard” in clinical trial outreach. The goal is to allow all cancer patients, regardless of an ability to pay for travel or other related expenses, to participate in clinical trials that are evaluating new therapeutic options. By including a higher enrollment of patients in clinical trials, the Lazarex Foundation believed there is a potential to develop new cancer treatments that support a more diverse patient population.

A study of clinical trial patients that covered an expanse of 13 years showed that the vast majority of clinical trial patients were Caucasian and a small percent were minorities. The study, Representation of Minorities and Women in Oncology Clinical Trials, revealed that from 2003 to 2016, 83 percent of 55,689 clinical trial enrollees were white, 6 percent were African-American, 5.3 percent were Asian, 2.6 percent were Hispanic, and 2.4 percent were classified as “other.”

Dana Dornsife, the founder of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, said with Amgen’s support of IMPACT, the foundation can optimize its resources and provide more opportunities to patients.

Amgen’s Chief Executive Officer Robert Bradway said the clinical trials studying those newer approaches to cancers are not only advancing new medications, but also serve as a lifeline to some patients who have few options to fight their disease.

“We are pleased to support the Lazarex Cancer Foundation's efforts to create more equitable access to clinical trials for cancer patients and improve minority participation in clinical trials, regardless of their circumstances,” said Bradway, who also serves as the chairman of Amgen’s Board of Directors.

Lazarex and its IMPACT program also conducted its own three-year pilot study at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University that showed a 29 percent increase in overall patient enrollment and doubled minority participation. IMPACT has additional plans to launch at other cancer centers with the mission of increasing minority participation in trials. Next year it will launch at the University of California at San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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