UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center now has 240 open clinical trials, making it a major hub of clinical research in Texas. The right clinical trial can literally extend or save a life, although minority populations (e.g. African American, Hispanic, Asian), who less than 6% participate in studies, can benefit less. As drug development moves toward precision-based models’, non-white populations are getting left behind due to this lack of participation.
A Patient Story
Recently, local news station KSAT reported on breast cancer patient Elsada Wilson who conveyed that she found and participated in a clinical trial at UT Health San Antonio. Luckily, she is now doing much better: in fact, Ms. Wilson reports “Today I feel great.” She continued, “I have to say I was fortunate in a way because I had breast cancer. And the first thing you think about, ‘not me, this is the end, what can I do?’” Ms. Wilson’s story needs to be told, reports Dr. Amelie Ramirez, chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences, as it can motivate others to act.
Dr. Ramirez told KSAT’s Max Massey, “In cases like Ms. Wilson, she came in, she took action” and “took part in a clinical trial that gave her that new treatment that worked even more effectively for her. So that’s the message we really want to get out there.”
The Mays Cancer Center
UT Health San Antonio’s Mays Cancer Center is part of a movement to bring clinical research to the community. Why? Because individuals with what can be labeled as ‘deadly cancers’ can potentially have access to cutting-edge, state-of-the-art therapies that they otherwise would never be able to access. Moreover, it is important for growing ethnic groups, such as Hispanics (Latinos), to get involved with research so that the precision medicine movement is front and center applicable to this large and diversified population. The Mays Cancer Center is working to be at the forefront of the Latino cancer research in the community, reports KSAT.
A Big Population
Although the Latino population is growing (now about 16% of the total population), little is known about the populations’ heterogeneity—how do drugs work with the diverse array of ethnic groups within the broader Hispanic/Latino population, notes Dr. Ramirez.
Clinical Research as a Care Option in San Antonio
UT Health San Antonio has been at the forefront of bringing clinical research to the Latino community. San Antonio has one of the largest Latino populations in the U.S. TrialSite News highlighted the fantastic work of Linda Lopez George of Utah Health San Antonio and others on our podcast series.
Over 25% of San Antonio’s Latino population is currently underinsured and face considerable health care access issues, according to one report. In fact, Texas as a whole has the highest uninsured problem in the nation with nearly 5 million hard working Texans with no health insurance.
Although undoubtedly this lack of access represents a bigger social-political challenge that must be addressed in the short to intermediate term, clinical trials represent a way to tap into not only standard-of-care level healthcare, but often access to advanced therapies.
For example, as UT Health San Antonio conducts prevention trials often involving incentives for participation, the opportunity to ensure not only standard of care treatment, but also preventative care, should be taken advantage of—hence the university and others are investing to educate the community as to the benefits of clinical research.
Dr. Amelie Ramirez, chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences