Mobile Health Technology May Improve Clinical Trial Equity

Father and Daugher WalkingMCW researchers and Ugwuji Maduekwe, MD, MMSc, MPH, FACS, FSSO, MCW Associate Professor of Surgery and Deputy Director of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment (AHW) are partnering with the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center for the PROmoting CLinicAl Trial EngageMent for Pancreatic Cancer App Study (PROCLAIM Study). The study is funded by a grant from the Lustgarten Foundation awarded to Lineberger PI Jen Jen Yeh, MD, and aims to improve participation of Black patients in pancreatic cancer clinical trials via a mobile health technology initiative.

“I am excited to work on an issue near and dear to my heart – improving access to high quality oncologic care for historically marginalized patients,” said Dr. Maduekwe. “Leveraging the resources from MCW and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center will further our efforts to ensure Black patients with pancreatic cancer have equitable access to clinical trials.”

The Lustgarten Equity, Accessibility, and Diversity (LEAD) Project strives to broaden inclusivity in the recruitment and retention of patients from underrepresented minority groups in pancreatic cancer clinical trials. Its inaugural grant will support the PROCLAIM Study with $150,000 per year for three years.

Black individuals experience the highest incidence of pancreatic cancer compared to any other ethnic or racial group in the nation. In Wisconsin, these patients are 50% less likely to receive treatment for the disease. The PROCLAIM Study will use mobile health technology as an educational and communication tool to foster open discussion between Black people with pancreatic cancer and their cancer teams, ultimately increasing clinical trial participation.

“The development of the technology will be informed by the lived experiences of patients (and their caregivers) with pancreatic cancer. It will identify ways to better educate them about treatment and empower them to discuss the role of clinical trials in their care. These strategies will help us improve outcomes of an historically underserved patient population,” said Dr. Maduekwe.

A recent Journal of Oncology study found that between 2010 and 2019, 42% of Black patients were deemed ineligible for pancreatic cancer clinical trials compared to 33% of white patients. Dr. Maduekwe explained that clinical trial criteria are meant to reduce risk, but overly restrictive requirements have inadvertently excluded large groups from receiving potentially life-saving therapies.

Dr. Maduekwe hopes the PROCLAIM Study will inspire other researchers to work towards improving cancer outcomes for underserved populations. She concluded by saying, “I've had the privilege of training and working at the best medical and oncologic centers in the world, like Froedtert and MCW. My overarching goal is always to ensure that every patient with cancer has access to that same level of care.

Read more about the LEAD Project grant.