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Since the middle of the 20th century, oncology's dose-finding paradigm has been oriented toward identifying a drug's maximum tolerated dose, which is then carried forward into phase 2 and 3 trials and clinical practice. For most modern precision medicines, however, maximum tolerated dose is far greater than the minimum dose needed to achieve maximal benefit, leading to unnecessary side effects. Regulatory change may decrease maximum tolerated dose's predominance by enforcing dose optimization of new drugs. Dozens of already approved cancer drugs require re-evaluation, however, introducing a new methodologic and ethical challenge in cancer clinical trials. In this article, we assess the history and current landscape of cancer drug dose finding. We provide a set of strategic priorities for postapproval dose optimization trials of the future. We discuss ethical considerations for postapproval dose optimization trial design and review three major design strategies for these unique trials that would both adhere to ethical standards and benefit patients and funders. We close with a discussion of financial and reporting considerations in the realm of dose optimization. Taken together, we provide a comprehensive, bird's eye view of the postapproval dose optimization trial landscape and offer our thoughts on the next steps required of methodologies and regulatory and funding regimes.


Garth W Strohbehn, Walter M Stadler, Philip S Boonstra, Mark J Ratain. Optimizing the doses of cancer drugs after usual dose finding. Clinical trials (London, England). 2024 Jun;21(3):340-349

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PMID: 38148731

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