The Parallel Roads of Representation and Access

Guest post by: Dana Dornsife, Founder and CEO, Lazarex Cancer Foundation

There are many avenues to addressing health disparities, an essential health policy objective. To determine the most appropriate strategies, it is important to first identify gaps in the healthcare delivery process. Access to healthcare services is universally seen as a disparity that must be confronted. However, even after improved access is achieved, it is equally important for the most effective treatments to be available.  Some treatments are less effective for racial or ethnic minorities and that is because only five percent of racial or ethnic minorities participate in clinical trials.

Representation in clinical trials is vital for the creation of therapies and medications that are effective for all races and ethnicities. This is why the Lazarex Cancer Foundation was founded in 2006, to improve patient access to clinical trials for new cancer treatments. Lazarex’s vision is that everyone affected by cancer will have hope, dignity, support and the most advanced treatments made available to them at all stages of their journey. To make this a reality there are currently three programs available through the foundation:

  1. The Lazarex Care program focuses on improving the outcome of cancer care for advanced stage cancer patients, and the medically underserved, by identifying FDA clinical trial options, providing assistance with out-of-pocket costs for clinical trial participation and a travel companion, and facilitating community outreach and engagement.
  2. IMPACT was created to generate a sustainable proof of concept action plan to transform the status quo of clinical trial recruitment, enrollment, retention, minority participation, completion, and translational science – providing equitable and timely access to cancer discovery for all patients.
  3. Lazarex Cancer Wellness HUBs (pilot) revolve around place based and culturally appropriate community outreach & engagement in the poorest neighborhoods of Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Lazarex Cancer Wellness HUBs provide a “safe space” for community members to talk about health concerns in relation to cancer, explore options from prevention through treatment and clinical trials, and gain access to the treatments and resources they need to improve their cancer outcomes.

The Healthcare Leadership Council recently presented Lazarex with its Redefining American Healthcare award, recognizing programs throughout the country that are transforming care delivery.

While cancer does not discriminate, Black, Asian, Latinx, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans face disproportionately higher rates of mortality from cancers that could be survived when diagnosed and treated early. Helping cancer patients participate in FDA therapeutic clinical trials and ensuring appropriate representation will lead to more discoveries that have positive results for all patients.

While the Lazarex Cancer Foundation’s focus is on clinical trials, it is recognized that there must be representation along the continuum of care within the workforce as well. Whether it be scientists or providers, representation in every facet of the healthcare experience is vital to improving outcomes for a diverse population.