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Clinical trials are responsible for many of today’s life-saving procedures and treatments.
But finding and enrolling in clinical trials can be difficult process, especially for Latinos who may experience language barriers or lack of information.
In response to these challenges, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recently updated their search engine to better help patients find and enroll in an NHBLI-sponsored clinical trial.
Available in Spanish, interested participants can now browse for clinical trials by age group, condition, and location.
The search engine also includes an overview of how clinical trials work, who can participate, and benefits, risks, and safety measures of trials.
Diseases and conditions studied in NHBLI-sponsored clinical trials include heart, lung, blood, or sleep-related diseases or disorders.
Latino Representation in Clinical Trials
Latinos are historically underrepresented in clinical trials.
They face many barriers to participating, including complex study protocols, lengthy trial duration, implicit bias on the part of research teams, language and cultural issues, and systemic issues such as lack of healthcare coverage, financial toxicity, transportation, and more.
Participating in clinical trials is especially important for Latinos because they comprise 18.5% of the U.S. population but less than 7.6% of trial participants.
This low participation rate makes it harder for researchers to find treatments that work best for Latinos.
In turn, that can worsen Latino health disparities, such as those seen in COVID-19, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers.
“Underrepresentation of minorities in clinical trials results in disparities of cancer outcomes and limits generalizability of the findings because researchers cannot study how minority patients respond to new treatments,” said Dr. Patricia Chalela, Associate Professor at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at UT Health San Antonio.
Increasing Latino Participation in Clinical Trials
When organizations like NHLBI make it easier for people to find clinical trials that are right for them, it can help more Latinos volunteer for clinical trials.
Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America! at the IHPR, is also creating new ways for Latinos to volunteer for clinical trials thanks to a grant from Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.
“With more Latino volunteers for clinical trials, researchers would have greater opportunity to find better prevention and treatments for diseases that affect this population,” Ramirez said.
On her Salud America! website, Ramirez is showcasing open clinical trials.
For example, the Avanzando Caminos Clinical Trial is seeking Latino cancer survivors to help unpack the social, cultural, behavioral, mental, biological, and medical influences on post-cancer life.
Other open trials cover bladder cancer, breast cancer, genetic screening, and more.
Ramirez is also leading awareness-raising social media events, webinars, and uplifting the stories of Latino clinical trial participants.
Like Alma Lopez.
Breast cancer is the top cause of death for Latinas, but Lopez has been a breast cancer survivor for more than 15 years.
She believes participating in a clinical trial at UT Health San Antonio helped her get better treatment and better long-term health.
“Clinical trials are great for finding new treatments that help people,” Lopez said. “And it helps the scientists. It gives opportunity to better medication for all populations.”
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