Black Americans are at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)  announced Sunday that he has been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia has been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.

This follows an announcement earlier this year that U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) was undergoing pancreatic cancer treatment.

These diagnoses are a bleak reminder that African Americans are at an increased risk for the disease. In fact, they have the highest incidence rate of pancreatic cancer of all ethnic/racial groups in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute SEER data.

Although there are many pancreatic cancer risk factors, including family history, diabetes, obesity and smoking, there is evidence that this disparity is more related to social and access issues rather than biology.

With National Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials Awareness Month coming up in January, this is a relevant time to issue a reminder about the importance of clinical trial participation.

Pancreatic cancer patients who participate in clinical research have better outcomes. Every treatment available today was approved through a clinical trial. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends clinical trials at diagnosis and during every treatment decision.

In the fight against pancreatic cancer, clinical trials often provide the best treatment options. They give patients early access to leading-edge investigational treatments that can lead to progress in research, improved treatment options and better outcomes. Without increased enrollment, it is very challenging to approve new and better treatment options.

Considering clinical trials is particularly important for pancreatic cancer patients who are part of an ethnic or racial minority group.

Despite comprising 12 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans make up only 5 percent of clinical trial participants. Hispanics represent 16 percent of the U.S. population, but only 1 percent of clinical trial participants. 1

Every pancreatic cancer tumor is different. Patients whose treatment aligns with their tumor biology and/or genetic makeup can have improved outcomes.

The patient’s ethnic and racial background is also so important for clinical trials. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), increased diversity in clinical trials could help researchers find better ways to fight diseases that disproportionately impact certain populations.

During Clinical Trials Awareness Month and throughout the year, join us by spreading awareness about the importance of clinical trials and about the critical role of patient participation.

Contact a Patient Central Associate
Contact Patient Central for more information about clinical trials, a personalized clinical trials search or for any other questions about pancreatic cancer. You can also request a free patient education packet which includes an informational booklet on clinical trials.

1The Society for Women’s Health Research United States Food and Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health. “Dialogues on Diversifying Clinical Trials.” 2011. Available from:

[Accessed 2013 Oct 10].