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For oncology drug development, phase II proof-of-concept studies have played a key role in determining whether or not to advance to a confirmatory phase III trial. With the increasing number of immunotherapies, efficient design strategies are crucial in moving successful drugs quickly to market. Our research examines drug development decision making under the framework of maximizing resource investment, characterized by benefit cost ratios (BCRs). In general, benefit represents the likelihood that a drug is successful, and cost is characterized by the risk adjusted total sample size of the phases II and III studies. Phase III studies often include a futility interim analysis; this sequential component can also be incorporated into BCRs. Under this framework, multiple scenarios can be considered. For example, for a given drug and cancer indication, BCRs can yield insights into whether to use a randomized control trial or a single-arm study. Importantly, any uncertainty in historical control estimates that are used to benchmark single-arm studies can be explicitly incorporated into BCRs. More complex scenarios, such as restricted resources or multiple potential cancer indications, can also be examined. Overall, BCR analyses indicate that single-arm trials are favored for proof-of-concept trials when there is low uncertainty in historical control data and smaller phase III sample sizes. Otherwise, especially if the most likely to succeed tumor indication can be identified, randomized controlled trials may be a better option. While the findings are consistent with intuition, we provide a more objective approach. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Thomas Jemielita, Archie Tse, Cong Chen. Oncology phase II proof-of-concept studies with multiple targets: Randomized controlled trial or single arm? Pharmaceutical statistics. 2020 Mar;19(2):117-125

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PMID: 31424631

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