UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Marjory Charlot, MD, MPH, MSc, was named the 2021 recipient of the Conquer Cancer Advanced Clinical Research Award for Diversity and Inclusion. The honor includes a three-year, $450,000 grant from Conquer Cancer, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) foundation, to support her research into a patient-centered mobile health app to increase Black women’s participation in breast cancer clinical trials.
Research advances have led to more effective cancer treatments for breast cancer, but studies have shown that Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer compared to all other women in the United States, and they are less likely to be asked to join cancer research studies.
“The fundamental cause of racial inequities in health outcomes is systemic racism. The interplay of race, racism, gender, the built and social environment, and opportunity influence access to health care and may also have biological consequences,” said Charlot, assistant professor at UNC School of Medicine and assistant director of patient engaged research at UNC Lineberger.
Poor patient-provider communication and lack of culturally tailored clinical trial information are two modifiable factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of Black patients in clinical trials, Charlot said. This is a critical gap to close, she added, because clinical trials are essential for advancing cancer treatments and improving cancer survival.
Charlot and her colleagues will use the grant to study how Black women with breast cancer use their cell phones for health information. The goal is to determine whether they will use mobile health, or mHealth, apps on their phones, and if they find these apps helpful to get information about cancer clinical trials. The researchers will develop an app created by Black women for Black women with breast cancer and then test it in two cancer hospitals to see if other Black patients with breast cancer find it easy to use and are satisfied with its use. They will use the feedback to improve the app and make it more useful so more Black women with breast cancer can use it.
Results from this study will be used to test the app in a larger study that will include many different hospitals.
Charlot said her research has three primary aims: Determine the clinical trial education and communication needs and use of mobile devices among Black women undergoing treatment for breast cancer; develop and refine a culturally tailored mobile health app prototype for clinical trial education and communication; and assess the usability and acceptability of the mHealth clinical trial education and communication tool for engaging Black patients with breast cancer in discussions about clinical trials.
“Through this project we are engaging with Black women with breast cancer as research partners and research participants to address these inequities,” Charlot said. “My hope is that centering Black women in this work will ultimately help us identify culturally appropriate, patient-centered solutions to a systemic issue. Marginalized populations need to be included and have to have a say in how these solutions should be designed and implemented.”