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Better Medicines, Healthier Communities: Improving Health Equity in Cancer Clinical Trials

Better Medicines, Healthier Communities: Improving Health Equity in Cancer Clinical Trials


The Johnson & Johnson Our Race to Health Equity initiative aims to help increase access to health care, including clinical trials, for underserved and underrepresented communities. Better access to more effective treatments, and increased diversity among health care providers are goals we are determined to reach.

To ensure these health care basics are available to underserved communities, it’s critical to focus on clinical trials as well. Of the 18 new oncology medicines approved in the U.S. in 2020, for example, 11 were for cancers that disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, yet clinical trial participants were not representative of the real-world patient population.i,ii This means we have a gap in our understanding of the efficacy and safety profiles of these new oncology drugs in minority populations and an opportunity to learn more about how these underrepresented groups respond to our new treatments.

In collaboration with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Conquer Cancer, Janssen, the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, is funding four Career Development Awards for Cancer Health Equity Research that will go to junior faculty members at cancer centers caring for underserved communities. The goal of these awards is to provide researchers with the resources needed to support their health equity and clinical cancer research.

The lack of diversity in cancer clinical trials is a systemic issue, and we need to address it from multiple angles by leveraging internal expertise and that of our investigator partners, but also by supporting young researchers who have dedicated their careers to tackling and addressing this dire need. This collaboration with ASCO and Conquer Cancer is an important example of how we are taking action to overcome the obstacles that have led to inequities in clinical trial access and participation for minority patients with cancer.

To ensure that cancer medications and treatments are best suited for all patients, we must directly address the obstacles to inclusive participation in clinical trials ― everything from mistrust and transportation logistics to enhanced partnering with minority clinical trial investigators and support for clinical trial resources/infrastructure at community-affiliated sites. To overcome these systemic barriers, Janssen Oncology has launched a new, comprehensive approach from study start-up planning through enrollment completion designed to improve access for and enrollment of racial/ethnic minority populations in cancer clinical trials.

Extending the Benefits of Clinical Trial Diversity Across Janssen’s Studies

Oncology is just one area where Janssen is living up to its commitment to ensure that clinical trial participants represent our patient populations. Since 2019, Janssen has been working to drive diversity and inclusion within all of its trials, especially for those in historically underserved communities. Ultimately, the goal is to foster greater equity in healthcare for all.

Under the leadership of Staci Hargraves, Vice President of Portfolio Management for Janssen R&D, Janssen’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Clinical Trials team leverages a framework to guide and support the activities and behaviors necessary to have a meaningful impact on clinical trial representation. The team is working with external partners and study sites to increase trial diversity, and expanding community engagement efforts to improve education, awareness, and trust in clinical research.

At Janssen, we know how important it is to understand and address the diverse needs of our patients. Clinical research is the foundation for our achievements in this area, ultimately benefiting those we are privileged to serve.

September 23, 2021

i U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “2020 Drug Trials Snapshot Summary Report”; Page 9, Available at: https://www.fda.gov/media/145718/download. Accessed on September 7, 2021.
ii American Cancer Society. “Cancer Facts and Figures.” Available at: https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/cancer-facts-and-figures-for-african-americans/cancer-facts-and-figures-for-african-americans-2019-2021.pdf. Accessed on September 7, 2021.