Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Razelle Kurzrock, M.D.

Committee Member

Jonathan Trent, M.D., Ph.D

Committee Member

David Hong, M.D.

Committee Member

Donald Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Karin Hahn, M.D.


Treatment for cancer often involves combination therapies used both in medical practice and clinical trials. Korn and Simon listed three reasons for the utility of combinations: 1) biochemical synergism, 2) differential susceptibility of tumor cells to different agents, and 3) higher achievable dose intensity by exploiting non-overlapping toxicities to the host. Even if the toxicity profile of each agent of a given combination is known, the toxicity profile of the agents used in combination must be established. Thus, caution is required when designing and evaluating trials with combination therapies. Traditional clinical design is based on the consideration of a single drug. However, a trial of drugs in combination requires a dose-selection procedure that is vastly different than that needed for a single-drug trial.

When two drugs are combined in a phase I trial, an important trial objective is to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD). The MTD is defined as the dose level below the dose at which two of six patients experience drug-related dose-limiting toxicity (DLT). In phase I trials that combine two agents, more than one MTD generally exists, although all are rarely determined. For example, there may be an MTD that includes high doses of drug A with lower doses of drug B, another one for high doses of drug B with lower doses of drug A, and yet another for intermediate doses of both drugs administered together. With classic phase I trial designs, only one MTD is identified. Our new trial design allows identification of more than one MTD efficiently, within the context of a single protocol.

The two drugs combined in our phase I trial are temsirolimus and bevacizumab. Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) pathway which is fundamental for tumor growth and metastasis. One mechanism of tumor resistance to antiangiogenic therapy is upregulation of hypoxia inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) which mediates responses to hypoxic conditions. Temsirolimus has resulted in reduced levels of HIF-1α making this an ideal combination therapy.

Dr. Donald Berry developed a trial design schema for evaluating low, intermediate and high dose levels of two drugs given in combination as illustrated in a recently published paper in Biometrics entitled “A Parallel Phase I/II Clinical Trial Design for Combination Therapies.” His trial design utilized cytotoxic chemotherapy. We adapted this design schema by incorporating greater numbers of dose levels for each drug. Additional dose levels are being examined because it has been the experience of phase I trials that targeted agents, when given in combination, are often effective at dosing levels lower than the FDA-approved dose of said drugs. A total of thirteen dose levels including representative high, intermediate and low dose levels of temsirolimus with representative high, intermediate, and low dose levels of bevacizumab will be evaluated.

We hypothesize that our new trial design will facilitate identification of more than one MTD, if they exist, efficiently and within the context of a single protocol. Doses gleaned from this approach could potentially allow for a more personalized approach in dose selection from among the MTDs obtained that can be based upon a patient’s specific co-morbid conditions or anticipated toxicities.


phase I, trial design, bevacizumab. temsirolimus

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Oncology Commons