• Article

Perceptions of cancer clinical research among African American men in North Carolina


The authors are grateful to the men and women who participated in our Focus Groups and shared with us their very personal cancer experience. Their insight is valuable, and will inform and improve cancer care for future generations. The authors thank the Greensboro area Community Research Advocates - especially April Durr, Elvira Mebane, Marie McAdoo, Kathy Norcott, and Cindy Taylor - who assisted in the conduct of the study, including interpretation of results. They also thank Gratia Wright of First Research Group for her expertise in moderating and executing all of the focus groups, and Lindsey Haynes-Maslow for her assistance in responding to reviewer comments. The study was funded as a part of the Carolina Community Network program, funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (U01-CA114629). This study was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


The problem of cancer health disparities is substantial. Clinical trials are widely advocated as a means of reducing disparities and bringing state-of-the-art care to the broader community, where most cancer care is delivered. This study sought to develop a better understanding of why disproportionately few African American men enroll in clinical trials given their substantial cancer burden.


This study applied community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods to design and conduct four focus groups of African American male cancer survivors and their caregivers in North Carolina.


Among major themes, participants expressed confusion about the relationship between clinical trials, treatment, and research: signifying patient confusion and misinterpretation of common clinical trial terminology. Social norms including gender barriers and generational differences remain problematic; participants often reported that men do not talk about health issues, are unwilling to go to the doctor, and exhibit misapprehension and distrust regarding trials. Participants perceived this misunderstanding as detrimental to community health and expressed the need for more clarity in clinical trials information and a more fundamental social openness and communication about cancer detection and treatment.


Findings indicate the importance of clinical trial education in both traditional provider referral to trials and also in general patient navigation. To dispel pervasive misapprehension regarding placebos, clinical trial information should emphasize the role of standard care in modern cancer treatment trials. Many participants described willingness to participate in a trial upon physician recommendation, suggesting merit in improving patient-physician communication through culturally competent terminology and trial referral systems.


Trantham, L. C., Carpenter, W. R., DiMartino, L., White, B., Green, M., Teal, R., ... Godley, P. A. (2015). Perceptions of cancer clinical research among African American men in North Carolina. Journal of the National Medical Association, 107(1), 33-41. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0027-9684(15)30007-9