The optimal design of phase II studies continues to be the subject of vigorous debate, especially with regards to studies of newer molecularly targeted agents. The observations that many new therapeutics ‘fail’ in definitive phase III studies, coupled with the numbers of new agents to be tested as well as the increasing costs and complexity of clinical trials further emphasizes the critical importance of robust and efficient phase II design.
The Clinical Trial Design Task Force(CTD-TF)of the NCI Investigational Drug Steering Committee (IDSC) has published a series of discussion papers on Phase II trial design in Clinical Cancer Research. The IDSC has developed formal recommendations regarding aspects of phase II trial design which are the subject of frequent debate such as endpoints(response vs. progression free survival), randomization(single arm designs vs. randomization), inclusion of biomarkers, biomarker based patient enrichment strategies, and statistical design(e.g. two stage designs vs. multiple-group adaptive designs).
While these recommendations in general encourage the use of progression-free survival as the primary endpoint, the use of randomization, the inclusion of biomarkers and the incorporation of newer designs, we acknowledge that objective response as an endpoint, and single arm designs, remain relevant in certain situations. The design of any clinical trial should always be carefully evaluated and justified based on the characteristic specific to the situation.