Bringing the Female Voice to Clinical Trials

Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer. What do all of these have in common? Each disproportionately affects women. Men and women actually experience differences in health risks, disease rates and life expectancy. The medical community understands some of these, but doctors and researchers don't have enough documentation or data to determine differences in sex-based responses to treatments.

With a balanced representation of men and women in clinical trials, companies would better understand how factors like dosage and efficacy contribute to the gender difference.

  • Dosage: Women's bodies process some medicines more slowly than men, meaning a dose calculated using a male clinical trial participant may have a different effect on a woman.
  • Efficacy: A different chemical and hormonal makeup means women respond to some medicines better than men, but may also react less favorably to others.

But without a strong presence of women in clinical trials, there's no certainty.

Women may not participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons, including insufficient awareness, poor access to health care, inadequate transportation or lack of childcare. Additionally, researchers consider women who could potentially become pregnant during a trial period a vulnerable group and exclude them from participation.

Unfortunately, this lack of participation has negative implications for women's health and can even slow cancer innovation. The data from female participants could shed light on the scientific basis for individualized treatment and can provide future paths for research. Additionally, without equal participation, clinical trials cannot accurately represent the population most likely to use a particular therapy. With equal participation in clinical trials, we can ensure we know the right medicine, dose and treatment path for any cancer patient, man or woman, at the beginning of their care.

We can change this trend through education. Women need to consider clinical trials a viable treatment option. Whether you join one yourself or mention it to your friends, everyone has a part to play in making sure women get represented in a clinical scale.

You can follow @LillyTrials on Twitter to stay in touch with news about clinical research or visit Lilly TrialGuide for things to consider about participating in clinical trials.