Mays Cancer Center selected as founding partner of oncology clinical trial diversity alliance

Photo of Latino family in hospital room.

Media contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579,

SAN ANTONIO (June 23, 2021) – The Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, today was announced as a founding partner of the Advancing Inclusive Research® Site Alliance. This coalition of clinical research sites will partner with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, to advance the representation of diverse patient populations in the company’s oncology clinical trials, test recruitment and retention approaches, and establish best practices that can be leveraged across the industry to help achieve health equity for people with cancer.

City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, Calif.; O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Ala.; and West Cancer Center, Memphis, Tenn., join the Mays Cancer Center as founding partners. Each of the centers will focus on enabling the participation of historically underrepresented patient groups in Genentech’s oncology trials, working collaboratively to share key learnings and explore innovative ways of increasing clinical trial access for every patient who might benefit. The Alliance also plans to expand to more research centers and additional disease areas in the near future, with the ultimate goal of building a robust and sustainable clinical research ecosystem that actively includes diverse patient groups.

Advancing treatment of our Hispanic population is essential

Photo of Ruben Mesa, MD.
Ruben Mesa, MD,, FACP, is executive director of the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson.

“Hispanics represent 60% of San Antonio’s population and 90% of the population in areas of South Texas,” said Mays Cancer Center Executive Director Ruben Mesa, MD, FACP. “It is imperative that we advance treatment, learning how new cancer therapies may help the Hispanics of South Texas. This is part of our mandate to bring more cutting-edge therapies through cancer clinical trials to South Texas cancer patients. Our participation in this alliance will enable us to increase the number of Hispanics in clinical trials and develop information to improve the recruitment efforts of centers nationwide.”

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, fewer than 10% of U.S. patients participate in clinical trials, and of those, only 5% to 15% are non-Caucasian – even though people of those ethnicities make up nearly 40% of the U.S. population[1]. In breast cancer, for example, Black women have an approximately 40% higher mortality rate compared to Caucasian women[2], yet represent only 6% of women in clinical trials studying the disease[3]. Distrust in the health care system, lack of access to nearby trial sites, and insufficient engagement with underserved communities are among the known drivers of these disparities.

“We must engage differently with disenfranchised patient communities if we want to ensure the most representative and effective clinical research and achieve optimal treatment outcomes for all,” said Quita Highsmith, chief diversity officer at Genentech. “Through the Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance, we’re partnering with highly experienced and trusted research centers located in areas with higher Black and Hispanic/Latinx populations to meet patients where they are and take practical and meaningful strides toward eliminating the systemic inequities of our health care system.”

The Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, is one of only four National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers in Texas. The Mays Cancer Center provides leading-edge cancer care, propels innovative cancer research and educates the next generation of leaders to end cancer in South Texas. Visit

[1] Nabhan C, Choueiri TK, Mato AR. Rethinking Clinical Trials Reform During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(9):1327-1329. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.3142; for non-Caucasian participation (Hispanic and Latino): Coakley M, Fadiran EO, Parrish LJ, Griffith RA, Weiss E, Carter C. Dialogues on diversifying clinical trials: successful strategies for engaging women and minorities in clinical trials. J Womens Health (Larchmt). Jul 2012;21(7):713-6. doi:10.1089/jwh.2012.3733

[2] American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021. Retrieved June 22, 2021.

[3]  “Enrollment of racial/ethnic minority patients in ovarian and breast cancer trials: An FDA Analysis.” Journal of Clinical Oncology. Retrieved June 22, 2021.

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