Getting more Black women into cancer trials 'not a marketing campaign, it's a movement'

Ricki Fairley, CEO of Touch, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance, is a force of nature. She is channeling that power to facilitate change in the outcomes for Black women with breast cancer through the When We Tri(al) initiative.

With Black women dying at a rate of 41% more than white women for the same diagnosis, this change is necessary and urgent.

The When We Tri(al) collaboration with kicked off January 26th on Facebook and The event, moderated by April Ryan, White House Correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief for theGrio, featured Fairley, patient navigator Valarie Worthy, and thriver/patient advocate Karen Peterson discussing the importance of getting Black women into clinical trials for breast cancer treatment.

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Black women represented a mere 3% of clinical trial participants for breast cancer drugs approved from 2008-2018. As a result, Fairley says that many of the drugs don’t work for Black women, many whom have different kinds of cancers or just don’t respond favorably.

Fairley, a triple negative breast cancer survivor herself, speaks fast, energetically and earnestly about the importance and need to get Black “Breasties” into breast cancer drug trials.

“I want Black women to understand—and the whole purpose of When We Tri(al) is to let them know that this is safe and good thing for you to do,” Fairley said. “You get better care, you get more attention… and you advance the science for your own health and for the health of our community,” she said.

To reach her target, Fairley is going "where black women work, live, play and pray.” This means reaching out to community organizations, sororities, HBUs and churches, as she says that the first port of call for many Black women after a diagnosis is to their pastor asking them to “pray for me.” While Fairley has no problems with that, she wants to arm the pastors with information as well so that when the women ask, the pastor does pray but also directs them to the website, which offers a plethora of information including links to search for clinical trials.

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In addition to this outreach, Touch has a very targeted digital marketing plan focusing on Black Breasties on Facebook and Instagram as well as Black women in general in the hopes of reaching them before diagnosis. Fairley also co-hosts a weekly web series, “The Doctor Is In” on

Pharma companies including Roche's Genentech, Bristol Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Pfizer, Seagen, Daiichi-Sankyo and Eisai are all completely on board with the mission, while also funneling financial tributes.

Fairly says they are listening and working on addressing the needs of Black women with breast cancer. Merck and Gilead are currently working together on a trial targeting triple negative breast cancer, which is more likely to affect Black women and often young (premammogram aged) Black women.

For Fairley, the mission is everything.

“It’s not a marketing campaign, it’s a movement. I want people to be moved. I want to intervene in our lives. This is an intervention I want to give you something and make you own it.”