Cancer Trials Need More Women

July 27th, 2009 | Sources: BurrillReport, Cancer


Cancer research trials published in peer-reviewed journals tend to include a disproportionately small number of women, according to a study published in Cancer.

pleasecanyouhelpTo reach this conclusion, Reshma Jagsi and her colleagues at the University of Michigan reviewed 661 prospective studies involving more than a million subjects who had non-gender specific cancers like those of the colon, head and neck, lung, brain and lymphomas.

“In the vast majority of studies we analyzed, fewer women were enrolled than we would expect given the proportion of women diagnosed with the type of cancer being studied,” Jagsi told BurrillReport.

Jagsi added, “we’re seeing it in all cancer types. We know there are biological differences between the sexes, as well as social and cultural differences. Studies need to assess whether there are differences in responses to treatment between women and men.”

The practice flies in the face of the NIH’s Revitalization Act of 1993, which highlighted the need to include women in research studies in numbers sufficient to support gender-specific subgroup analyses.

Government-funded studies did include slightly higher numbers of female participants: 41% of subjects in such trials were women, whereas only 37% of the subjects in non-government-funded studies were women.

The authors suggested several reasons for the discrepancy. For example, scientists tend to avoid including “vulnerable populations,” such as women of childbearing age in their studies. “By protecting them from research, we’re excluding them,” the scientists concluded.

Other barriers are thought to include a lack of information, fear, and a belief that the studies interfere with individual responsibilities including child care.

The authors suggest that among other things, investigators should reimburse participants for transportation and child care expenses incurred during the study.


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