Journal Article

Adaptive Clinical Trials: Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Adaptive Design Elements

Edward L. Korn and Boris Freidlin

in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Volume 109, issue 6 Published in print June 2017 | ISSN: 0027-8874
Published online March 2017 | e-ISSN: 1460-2105 | DOI:
Adaptive Clinical Trials: Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Adaptive Design Elements

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  • Medical Oncology
  • Clinical Oncology
  • Surgical Oncology


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There is a wide range of adaptive elements of clinical trial design (some old and some new), with differing advantages and disadvantages. Classical interim monitoring, which adapts the design based on early evidence of superiority or futility of a treatment arm, has long been known to be extremely useful. A more recent application of interim monitoring is in the use of phase II/III designs, which can be very effective (especially in the setting of multiple experimental treatments and a reliable intermediate end point) but do have the cost of having to commit earlier to the phase III question than if separate phase II and phase III trials were performed. Outcome-adaptive randomization is an older technique that has recently regained attention; it increases trial complexity and duration without offering substantial benefits to the patients in the trial. The use of adaptive trials with biomarkers is new and has great potential for efficiently identifying patients who will be helped most by specific treatments. Master protocols in which trial arms and treatment questions are added to an ongoing trial can be especially efficient in the biomarker setting, where patients are screened for entry into different subtrials based on evolving knowledge about targeted therapies. A discussion of three recent adaptive clinical trials (BATTLE-2, I-SPY 2, and FOCUS4) highlights the issues.

Journal Article.  5119 words. 

Subjects: Medical Oncology ; Clinical Oncology ; Surgical Oncology

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