WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume’s (D-7th) bill, the “Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act” passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The bill is meant to confront healthcare disparities by making cancer clinical trials more racially diverse, Mfume’s office said Thursday.

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“Henrietta Lacks’ DNA has helped spur countless medical breakthroughs for years and counting. Every single one of us has in some way benefited from her life, but many of us don’t even know it. This bill honors her life and legacy by working to make sure underrepresented communities are counted and protected in clinical trials,” Rep, Mfume said.

Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman, was 31-years-old when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. While she underwent cancer treatment, doctors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital took samples of her tumor cells without her or her family’s consent.

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Her cells, unlike others tested at the time and afterwards, survived and multiplied outside of her body. Her cells, dubbed “HeLa cells” were used to test and further develop the polio vaccine and have advanced treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and other diseases.

Mfume stressed the need for adequate representation of racial minorities and underserved communities in cancer clinical trials.

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“I believe the most profound reason for low enrollment begins and lies with the horrific Tuskegee study of 1972 in which hundreds of unwitting Black men suffered and died needlessly as part of an unethical and inhumane medical experiment. Historical cases of exploitation and deceptive medical practices are a major source of distrust in government research,” Congressman Mfume stated. “In other instances, patients cannot dedicate the time and resources required to participate in trials. And in some cases, doctors don’t ask. Whatever the case, we have to get a better understanding of where the barriers exist so we know how to address them.”

CBS Baltimore Staff