A significant linear relationship was observed in a study investigating whether the proportion of female membersacross National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guideline panels correlated with the proportion of female authors of seminal treatment-related publications cited in those guidelines. This study was published online in Lancet Oncology

Studies exploring barriers to the advancement of women in academic medicine have identified a number of factors, including fewer early-career sponsorship activities, and a decreased likelihood of receiving research funding. The current study was designed to determine whether the percentage of women who do attain senior academic positions in the field of oncology, as reflected by authorship of seminal publications, are proportionally represented on NCCN guideline panels. NCCN guideline panel membership and authorship of references cited therein were chosen as surrogates for research success and academic distinction due to the wide use and influence of these guidelines in the United States. 

In the study, the number of female and male guideline panel members was determined for 22 disease-specific guidelines, including both solid tumors and hematological malignancies, and 50 seminal research references that support treatment recommendations were randomly selected from each guideline. Author gender for those publications was determined for first, second, and last authors, with a single author counted only once in the event that they authored multiple publications. 

Across the NCCN guidelines studied, the percentage of female NCCN panel members was 29%, and women represented 30% of publication authors. A significant linear relationship was demonstrated between these 2 parameters (r=0.67; P =.00006).

Guidelines covering genitourinary cancers, with the exception of prostate cancer, had a lower percentage of women on the guideline panels compared with female authors of cited publications, whereas the reverse was true for female representation on B-cell lymphoma and myeloma guideline panels. 

In conclusion, the authors wrote, “Our results indicate that the gender composition of NCCN cancer experts appropriately reflects the pool of successful researchers. As more women enter the academic oncology community, we expect that the percentage of women in senior leadership positions will continue to increase. However, this outcome depends primarily on efforts to bolster the academic experience and outcomes for the current cohort of female junior faculty members to ensure their research potential is realized.”

Reference

  1. Green AK, Barrow B, Bach PB. Female representation among US National Comprehensive Cancer Network guideline panel members [published online February 7, 2019]. Lancet Oncol. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(19)30065-8