Cancer Research in Vulnerable Populations: A Call for Collaboration and Sustainability From MENAT Countries

Tolba M., Skelton M., Abdul Sater Z., Fadhil I., Al-Zahrani A., Kutluk T., ...More

JCO global oncology, vol.9, 2023 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 9
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1200/go.23.00201
  • Journal Name: JCO global oncology
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, MEDLINE, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


PURPOSE: Cancer is a major burden across Middle East, North Africa, Türkiye (MENAT). Many MENAT countries experience multiple conflicts that compound vulnerabilities, but little research investigates the linkages between vulnerability and cancer research. This study examines the current level and the potential for cancer research among vulnerable populations in the MENAT region, aiming to provide direction toward developing a research agenda on the region's vulnerable populations. METHODS: Expert-driven meetings were arranged among the 10 authors. After obtaining institutional review board approval, a self-administered online survey questionnaire was circulated to more than 500 cancer practitioners working in 22 MENAT countries. RESULTS: Two hundred sixteen cancer practitioners across the MENAT region responded. Fifty percent of the respondents identified clinical research in vulnerable patients with cancer as a significant issue; 21.8% reported previous research experience that included vulnerable populations, and 60% reported encountering vulnerable populations in their daily clinical practice. The main barriers to conducting research were lack of funding (60%), protected time (42%), and research training (35%). More than half of the respondents believed that wars/conflicts constituted an important source of vulnerability. The most vulnerable cancer populations were the elderly, palliative/terminally ill, those with concomitant mental health-related issues, those with other chronic illnesses, and socioeconomically deprived patients. CONCLUSION: Results support that a major effort is needed to improve cancer research among vulnerable cancer populations in the MENAT region. We call for interdisciplinary research that accounts for the region's unique, compounding, and cumulative forms of vulnerability. This cancer research agenda on different vulnerable populations must balance sociobehavioral studies that explore sociopolitical barriers to quality care and clinical studies that gauge and refine treatment protocols. Building a research agenda through collaboration and solidarity with international partners is prime time.