Genentech Launches Oncology Clinical Trial Diversity Alliance

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, today announced the creation of the Advancing Inclusive Research® Site Alliance. This coalition of clinical research sites will partner with Genentech 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, California; Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, San Antonio, Texas; O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama; and West Cancer Center, Memphis, Tennessee comprise the Alliance’s 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.

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 5-15% are non-Caucasian – even though people of those ethnicities make up nearly 40% of the U.S. population1. In breast cancer, for example, Black women have an approximately 40% higher mortality rate compared to Caucasian women2, yet represent only 6% of women in clinical trials studying the disease3. Distrust in the healthcare 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 towards eliminating the systemic inequities of our healthcare system.”

“There are many barriers to participation in clinical trials,” said Rick Kittles, Ph.D., director of City of Hope’s Division of Health Equities. “We must be proactive and intentional in addressing the barriers that keep underrepresented groups from participating in clinical trials so that breakthrough cancer discoveries can be more equitably distributed across all populations.”

“Hispanics represent 60% of San Antonio’s population, and in areas of South Texas, 90% of our population,” said Ruben Mesa, M.D., FACP, executive director of the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson. “It is imperative that we advance treatment, learning how new cancer therapies may help the Latinos 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.”

“One of our goals at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is to eliminate the threat of cancer to our community by providing access to high quality cancer prevention and care to everyone,” said Monica L. Baskin, Ph.D., associate director for community outreach and engagement at O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. “We know that health outcomes are not the same across populations in our community, with racial/ethnic minorities often having worse outcomes than other groups. We’re committed to identifying institutional racism and addressing its impacts on cancer-related health inequities through our participation in the Alliance.”

“We are committed to giving all patients in our community access to the treatments that help them achieve better health outcomes,” said Greg Vidal, M.D., Ph.D., medical oncologist at West Cancer Center. “This means having a full understanding of treatment efficacy amongst all the communities we serve. We’re joining this alliance to help further the understanding of and participation in clinical trials amongst underrepresented patients in our community and across the country and to find solutions to serve them better.” 

The Advancing Inclusive Research Site Alliance is an example of progress against Genentech’s 2025 Diversity and Inclusion Commitments, which include incorporating population-specific assessments and inclusive research action plans for all of its clinical development programs. Addressing health inequity and inclusion in research is increasingly central to Genentech’s mission to improve health outcomes, and the company seeks to deepen engagement with patient groups, healthcare providers, payers, government stakeholders and others to scale and advance health equity for all patients.

Click here for a perspective on this news from our Chief Diversity Officer Quita Highsmith.

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

About Genentech

Founded more than 40 years ago, Genentech is a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious and life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, California. For additional information about the company, please visit