Improving Representation in Breast Cancer Clinical Trials & Developing Better Medicines for All

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on communities of color, has been a painful reminder of the racial and ethnic disparities that have long existed in our country. In the United States, Black people tend to have higher rates of chronic and progressive conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, and face greater obstacles when it comes to prevention, detection, and treatment. This is especially true in the breast cancer space. 

  • Black women are often diagnosed at later stages and can often have a worse prognosis [1]; 
  • Black women face a 20% to 40% higher mortality rate despite overall rates of breast cancer in Black and white women being about the same [2];  
  • Black women have a 39% recurrence rate and a 52% higher relative risk of death compared to white women [3]; and  
  • Historically, Black women have been underrepresented as participants in breast cancer clinical research [4].  

Through allyship with community partners and leaders in communities of color, Pfizer is focused on continuing to improve diverse representation in breast cancer clinical trials. Most recently, Pfizer partnered with the Tigerlily Foundation to launch Health Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (HEAL) sessions to advance education around clinical trials for Black women with cancer. The program focused on:   

  • Shedding light on the breast cancer journey for women of color. 
  • Improving access to breast cancer clinical trials for women of color. 
  • Building trust and enhancing the relationship between breast cancer patients and their care partners.  
  • Educating women of color on clinical trials and strengthening their capacity to increase awareness and participation in breast cancer clinical trials.   
  • Identifying barriers and determining solutions that can improve access to breast cancer clinical trials, with the hope of sharing these learnings in other treatment areas.  

 “Race, literacy, financial barriers, access, social, systemic and hereditary backgrounds should not be determinants of life and health equity,” said Maimah Karmo, President, Tigerlily Foundation. “There are significant opportunities to strengthen engagement among the Black community, healthcare providers and medical organizations, toward improving health and health outcomes. In order to bring about change, we have banded together with colleagues and friends to advocate for increased access and awareness of breast cancer research for women of color. We are excited to partner with organizations, like Pfizer, to work to transform systems globally – with one vision – to champion Black breast cancer as a social justice issue and eradicate as many barriers as possible that lead to loss of life for Black women.” 

Race, ethnicity, age, and sex can all impact how different people respond to the same medicine or vaccine. This is why diversity among clinical trial participants is so important. The more diverse a group of clinical trial participants, the more we can learn about the safety and efficacy of a potential medicine or vaccine for people who have characteristics like those of the participants. Participation is entirely voluntary and for those in a position to give it, it is a gift. 

As a leading global pharmaceutical company, Pfizer is committed to working with Tigerlily Foundation and communities of color to help reduce health disparities. The HEAL sessions provided an inspiring forum that reinforced old and uncovered new commonalities, obstacles, unique experiences of Black patients, and the gaps in access to clinical trials as an option to consider. Each session allowed Pfizer and patient advocates from the Tigerlily Foundation to have open and honest dialogues on the disparities for Black women living with breast cancer, and uncover potential solutions and tools for patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and clinical site staff.  

Carmen White, Pfizer Director, Multicultural Participant Experience said, “I’m so thrilled that the Tigerlily patient advocates, also known as ANGEL Advocates, are among our partners whose insights are being applied to Pfizer’s effort to improve the overall trial experience for future patients. I left each HEAL session moved and motivated.”   

Equity is one of Pfizer’s four core values. From medical grants aimed at actively reducing the disparities in care, to resources for patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to navigate their unique cancer journeys and treatment decisions, Pfizer has made it a priority to be inclusive, act with integrity, and ensure every person is seen, heard, and cared for. 

Representation matters in clinical research because it ensures that medicines and vaccines in development benefit all. The HEAL project demonstrates one way Pfizer is doing its part in ensuring women of color are represented in clinical trials. To learn more about joining a clinical trial, please visit With your help, breakthroughs for all are possible.


  1. ACS, American Cancer Society (2016) Breast cancer facts & figures, 2015–2016. 2016. American Cancer Society, Atlanta 
  2. Breast Cancer Screening in Women at Higher-Than-Average Risk: Recommendations From the ACR. Monticciolo, Debra L. et al. Journal of the American College of Radiology, Volume 15, Issue 3, 408 – 414 
  3. Black Women Have Higher Risk of Recurrence Than Other Ethnicities, Oncology Times: January 5, 2019 – Volume 41 – Issue 1 – p 24 doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000552839.22529.72 
  4. Bonner D, Cragun D, Reynolds M, Vadaparampil ST, Pal T. Recruitment of a Population-Based Sample of Young Black Women with Breast Cancer through a State Cancer Registry. Breast J. 2016 Mar-Apr;22(2):166-72. doi: 10.1111/tbj.12545. Epub 2015 Dec 14. PMID: 26661631; PMCID: PMC4775403. Accessed April 15, 2022 


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