Women Underrepresented in Cancer Research
Reported June 09, 2009
(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Women continue to be woefully underrepresented in cancer clinical trials despite long-standing government recommendations that urge scientists to do a better job of adequately representing women, new research finds.
Researchers at the University of Michigan reviewed 661 prospective clinical studies involving more than a million participants that have appeared in eight highly regarded journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet and the Journal of the American Medical Association.
When they assessed seven non-sex-specific cancer types, the researchers found that the majority of studies enrolled a lower proportion of women than the proportion of women with that type of cancer in the general population. On average, women made up 38.8 percent of patients enrolled in a study.
The study also examined the differences between government-funded studies and drug company-funded studies. In government studies, female patients constituted 41.3 percent of participants compared to 36.9 percent in privately funded studies. The researchers said this finding suggests that government policies may encourage more balance when enrolling patients in clinical studies.
The study’s authors said researchers need to make greater efforts to ensure that oncologists know the true effects of treatments and medical procedures in female patients. They also suggested future studies to examine why such a disparity exists. They theorized that factors such as lack of information, fear and perceived interference with personal responsibilities, such as childcare, may be responsible. Some researchers may also worry about protecting women of childbearing age from unnecessary exposures to medical interventions, the study’s authors said.
SOURCE: CANCER, July 15, 2009