Equitable inclusion of racial and ethnic participation in clinical trials is crucial to improving disparities in health care, especially for historically marginalized populations. Our study aims to describe the racial and ethnic demographics of patients enrolled in published phase 2 clinical trials involving proton therapy in the United States.
Published manuscripts were identified in PubMed, Embase, World of Science, and Cochrane. Phase 2 trials evaluating proton therapy for US patients were included. For each article in the study, data were collected comprising authors, title, and publication year, and clinical trial numbers were verified. Additional data included tumor site, primary institution, sample size, reported race/ethnicity, and raw number/percentile of race/ethnicity. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines were used.
Overall, 970 titles were identified; 636 remained after duplicate screening, and 75 full-text articles were assessed. We identified 38 eligible manuscripts for inclusion comprising 2648 patients. Only 15 (39%) of the publications reported race/ethnicity. Of these, 8 (21%) and 10 (26%) documented Hispanic or Black trial participants, respectively; however, only 6 (16%) documented trial participation for both Hispanic and Black patients. Of the 1409 patients with a documented race/ethnicity, 89.0% (n = 1254) were non-Hispanic white, 5.3% (n = 75) were Black, and 2.2% (n = 31) were Hispanic. Other and unknown race/ethnicity comprised the remaining patients (3.5%; n = 49).
We identified underreporting of demographic data in published phase 2 proton therapy trials, which unfortunately mirrored underreporting for cancer drug clinical trials. We also noted dramatic Black and Hispanic patient underrepresentation across the trials in which race and ethnicity are reported. Findings highlight the urgent need to identify and address barriers to proton therapy trials for Black and Hispanic patients ensuring clinical trials in radiation oncology are representative of the patients seen in clinical practice.