Research engagement among black men with prostate cancer

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Published: 24 Nov 2016
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Dr Mieke Van Hemelrijck - King's College London, London, UK

Dr Van Hemelrijck speaks with ecancertv at NCRI 2016 about the issues involved in recruiting black males with prostate cancer in research studies, and the fact that black males are three times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.

She also discusses the challenges and successes in addressing these issues, including financial incentives.

Read Dr Van Hemelrijck’s article "Research Engagement among Black Men with Prostate Cancer" here.


We realised through working with our prostate cancer patients at Guy’s Hospital that it’s sometimes quite difficult to recruit black men into our research studies. This has also been reported in the literature so we wanted to organise some focus groups with our black population to get a better understanding of why is that they’re not keen on participating in research studies. But it’s also important to know that black men are three times more likely to get prostate cancer so that’s why it’s important that we actually have them in our research studies because we need to be able to generalise our findings from our studies to the whole population and if we always lack this black population then it may actually not be representative for the whole population or the catchment area, at least, from our hospital.

What attitudes to research have you found?

Overall there was actually a rather negative attitude about participating in research and a lot of the barriers that were mentioned throughout the focus groups were really a lack of understanding of what research is and how it can potentially benefit a patient; also a lack of understanding about prostate cancer and how it develops. Then also there was a lot of belief in herbal medicine and therefore they didn’t want to be involved in prostate cancer research. However, we also found some facilitators so we then identified that if there were more word of mouth and more media attention towards the need to participate in research that that would actually help a lot. Also they wanted more explanations about what research really does to them. So it’s all about explaining it better with more context.

Interestingly, we also had very mixed opinions about financial incentives because some literature studies suggest that financial incentives may help recruit men but actually our population they couldn’t come to an agreement. Some were pro but then others thought it was actually more a threat than anything. A lot of the things that we identified in the focus groups had been addressed previously in the literature but actually that in itself is an important finding because despite the fact that we know what some of the barriers are for these men to participate in research, somehow we’re not really doing anything about it. Particularly for prostate cancer it’s a problem so we really learned that we have to address these issues and try to facilitate participation in research for these black men.

What would you like the public to take away from this message?

The main message really is that it’s true that this research may not potentially benefit the patients as we speak but it will help other patients potentially in the future. It’s important that whatever research we do that it’s generalizable and can be applied to a lot of men at risk of getting prostate cancer or who are already diagnosed with prostate cancer. So therefore it’s very good that these men would also participate in research because it can help fellow black men who later on in life potentially have prostate cancer.