TAMPA, Fla. - Officials at Moffitt Cancer Center are making a plea to minority communities, specifically the African American community, to participate in clinical trials for cancer treatments. 

What You Need To Know

  • Dr. B. Lee Green says diversity needed in clinical trials

  • Many recall Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment from decades ago

  • Dr. Green says Moffitt's focus is saving lives

  • More Coronavirus headlines

With Covid-19 revealing some of the alarming health disparities in the African American communities when it comes to deadly diseases, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Vice President of diversity, Public Relations & Strategic Communications. Dr. B. Lee Green, Ph.D said now is the the time to figure out solutions.

“We have a number of researchers across the cancer center who are doing work in breast cancer, we have lung cancer, almost every cancer you can imagine we have researchers asking those questions,” he said. “Like why are we seeing these differences and what is being done to address them?”

Part of Dr. Green’s job is to help find out that answer and one of the possible solutions would call for more African Americans to participate in clinical trials for cancer treatments.

“We have to make sure these therapies, these drugs that we are creating work just as effectively on different populations, and the only way to do that is if we have a diversity of the folks participating in those clinical trials. Without that we just don’t know,” he said.

But there’s some mistrust in the African American community when it comes to those kinds of studies. Mention clinical trials in the African American community and you may hear three words, Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Beginning in the 1930’s and spanning decades, hundreds of black men were tricked into thinking they were being treated for “bad blood”. The ones who were infected with syphilis were never given any treatment.

Dr. Green said times have changed and he stresses at Moffitt they’re focused on saving lives.

“We put it on the table. We say to people we understand that there are these issues that have happened in the past and then we try to explain to them why it’s almost impossible for something like Tuskegee to happen in today’s time and people get it,” he said.

Dr. Green is hoping that more people will get it and learn about some of the safe guards put in place to make sure studies like what happened at Tuskegee don’t happen again. He said knowing that could potentially save a lot of lives.