Roche Canada Launches Clinical Trial Diversity Alliance

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Mississauga, ON - June 12, 2023. Roche Canada today announced the creation of the Advancing Inclusive Research® Site Alliance. This coalition of clinical research sites will partner with Roche to advance the representation of diverse patient populations in the company’s clinical trials, test recruitment and retention approaches, and establish best practices that can be leveraged across the industry to help achieve health equity for all.

Clinical research that doesn’t reflect real-world disease demographics isn’t always generalizable to all patient populations and a lack of robust representative data can significantly impede medical and scientific advances overall. Today, only 1%–3% of the eligible Canadian population participates in clinical trials1. For cancer trials, the reported rates of trial participants to new incident cancer cases are 4.7% overall, and as low as 1% in some Canadian provinces, as compared to 14% in the UK 2,3.

“We must engage differently with disenfranchised patient communities if we want to ensure the most representative clinical research and achieve optimal treatment outcomes for all,” said Barbara Zrinscak, Geography Lead, Roche Canada. “Through the Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance, we’re partnering with highly experienced and trusted research centers located in areas with a high distribution of ethnic populations to meet patients where they are and take practical and meaningful strides towards eliminating the systemic inequities of our healthcare system.”

Led by the Clinical Trials Office (CTO), the University of Alberta (UofA) will be the first Canadian Site Alliance member. The Site will focus on developing a health network approach in the province of Alberta by working with Alberta Health Services and its hospitals where all specialty care is provided in therapeutic domains such as ophthalmology, neurodegenerative disease, and oncology. Alberta is home to approximately 12.5% of the Canadian population and is challenged to provide healthcare and conduct clinical trials over large geographic distances. The Site Alliance will provide an exciting opportunity to identify and address the barriers to clinical trial participation unique to the region.

Approximately 27.8% of the provincial population identify as a visible minority, predicted to increase to 40% by 2040-2050. While there have already been efforts to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in clinical research, there is more to do to address barriers with historically underrepresented patient groups, including indigenous and rural communities. By exploring these issues at the system level, participation and appropriate representation in Roche trials will be improved. Working collaboratively across Alliance sites in other countries like the UK to share key learnings and explore innovative ways of increasing clinical trial access will amplify the overall impact. The Alliance also plans to expand to more research centers in the future, with the ultimate goal of building a robust and sustainable clinical research ecosystem that actively includes diverse patient groups.

Despite the increase in racialized communities in Canada, visible minorities have significantly higher rates of untreated chronic and acute disease, poorer health outcomes, and higher mortality rates than the rest of the population.4,5,6 “Canada’s First Nations people continue to face significant barriers to achieving good health, stemming in part from colonialism, racism, and social exclusion. We are committed to investing in sites to promote trials and building trust in First Nations and other underserved communities and in a future where there is equitable access to healthcare. Ultimately, by including diverse populations in our trials, we will truly develop medicines that are effective to all people” said Barbara.

“We are fully committed to increasing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in clinical trials and helping to drive cultural change within our research ecosystem. The UofA has created a Strategic Plan for EDI providing a framework for addressing systemic barriers. The Site Alliance’s focus on issues related to EDI in clinical trials will help to ensure that all Albertans have equitable and fair access to clinical trials and that we strive to address the systemic barriers for underrepresented groups,” said Dr. Lawrence Richer, M.D., MSc. from the University of Alberta. “We’re committed to identifying where we as an institution need to be better and to take action where we can. Often the best ideas are spawned in collaboration and I look forward to seeing what innovative strategies are developed in partnership with Roche”.

The Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance is an example of progress against Roche’s 2025 Diversity and Inclusion Commitments, which include incorporating population-specific assessments and inclusive research action plans for all of its clinical development programs. Addressing health inequity and inclusion in research is increasingly central to Roche’s mission to improve health outcomes, and the company seeks to deepen engagement with patient groups, healthcare providers, payers, government stakeholders and others to scale and advance health equity for all patients.

References

  1. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information “Clinical Trials: The Muddled Canadian Landscape”

  2. Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. The 2018 Cancer System Performance Report; Canadian

     Partnership Against Cancer: Toronto, ON, Canada, 2018.

  3. Sinha, G. United Kingdom Becomes the Cancer Clinical Trials Recruitment Capital of the World. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 2007, 99, 420–422.

  4. Jamal, S, et al. Cancer in First Nations people in Ontario, Canada: Incidence and Mortality, 1991 to 2010. Health Rep. 2021 Jun 16;32(6):14-28

  5. Quan, H, et al. Variation in health services utilization among ethnic populations. CMAJ. 2006 Mar 14;174(6): 787-791

  6. Miao F and Kemp E. The deterioration of health status among immigrants to Canada. Global Public Health. 2009 Jun 9;5:462-478.

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