To the Editor:
Amy Richey of Bowling Green was a breast cancer survivor when we first met in 2016 while volunteering for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. She was a passionate advocate for cancer patients and caregivers.
Three short years later cancer came back into Amy’s life. We lost Amy on July 5, 2019. Frustrated in recent years before her death by the medical insurance industry, she acted on her frustrations, providing a voice for caregivers and patients at the local, state and national levels. As always, she worked to make life better for others. Before she died, she sent her fellow volunteers a message that thoughts and prayers don’t fix things — policy and change are needed in the fight against cancer. For Amy, my voice is louder: Diversity Matters in Cancer Research.
Reducing health disparities in the U.S. requires a broad approach, from access to primary care to participation in clinical trials. As a caregiver I’m keenly aware of the need for diversity and addressing disparities when it comes to tackling this disease. About 1 in 5 cancer clinical trials fail because of a lack of participation. Racial and ethnic groups, older, rural and poorer Americans are all under-represented in trials that do move ahead. And there is a four-fold disparity in the number of Blacks who are diagnosed with cancer compared to those who participate in clinical trials.
This gap is something I recently asked U.S. Rep. Bob Latta to help address when we met with him as part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s virtual lobby day. The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act would help pinpoint and begin to address the barriers that keep people with diverse backgrounds from participating in trials.
The bill is named in honor of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951 and whose cells have played a role in some of modern medicine’s most important breakthroughs, including cancer treatments. With COVID-19 upending clinical trials across the country, new policies to ensure clinical trials include patients from diverse backgrounds is even more crucial. This bill is an important first step to increase diversity in cancer clinical trials.
Call, write a letter, or email Latta and ask him to co-sponsor and support the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act. Be that loud voice for Amy.