UCLH and Roche to address barriers to trial recruitment in ethnic minority groups

UCLH is starting a major study looking at barriers to the recruitment of patients from ethnic minority groups into clinical trials.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at UCLH is collaborating with Roche Products Ltd to study what happens in the recruitment process in four disease areas at UCLH: breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatology and stroke.

It is known there is significant disparity among different population groups in accessing essential research into new treatments. Not only are some patients from ethnic minority groups potentially missing out on valid treatment options, but under-enrolment may reduce the generalisability of any research findings.

For example, it is known that across the country ethnic minority groups are under-represented in Alzheimer’s research – despite a prediction by the Alzheimer’s Society that there will be 50,000 patients from ethnic minority communities with dementia by 2026.

The aim of the new study is to find out if there are any barriers during the recruitment process that prevent people from ethnic minority backgrounds from consenting to take part in trials. Ultimately UCLH would like to trial measures to break down these barriers.

It has been suggested that barriers to research participation among ethnic minority patient populations include cultural and economic barriers, as well as general distrust in research and the healthcare system. There is also the potential for there to be a subconscious bias when selecting patients to be approached about clinical trials. The NIHR highlights the importance of understanding these obstacles and tailoring solutions with under-served groups.

The research will run for 24 months into 2024, and aims to generate recommendations to address challenges that must be overcome to successfully recruit participants. Patients will be working with researchers to design the study.

BRC Director Professor Bryan Williams said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Roche on this important piece of work. We will be taking an in-depth look at the recruitment process. If we break down barriers to the recruitment of minority ethnic patients to trials, it can only make our research better and more relevant.”

Nick McNally, Managing Director, Research at UCLH/UCL, said: “I look forward to sharing the insights we should gain from this study. The recruitment of people from minority ethnic groups is a pressing concern for researchers and the research community. It is a challenge we all need to address and this study takes us one step nearer ensuring research is inclusive.”

Marius Scholtz, Medical Director, Roche Products Ltd, said: “Roche is committed to addressing barriers to clinical trial participation and research across all patients and groups. Partnerships such as this one are vital in helping us enhance the future designs of our clinical trials and ensure greater inclusion and better access to all of our clinical trials.”

The study project lead Rosamund Yu, Head of PPI at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at UCLH, said: “We are excited to be able to take forward a piece of research we have been wanting to do for some time. If we can understand what happens when people are approached about taking part in research and what affects whether people consent or not, we can start to make sure our trials are accessible to everyone.”