Modified 3+3 design for phase I clinical trials

Yue Song, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Phase I clinical trial is mainly designed to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of a new drug. Optimization of phase I trial design is crucial to minimize the number of enrolled patients exposed to unsafe dose levels and to provide reliable information to the later phases of clinical trials. Although it has been criticized about its inefficient MTD estimation, nowadays the traditional 3+3 method remains dominant in practice due to its simplicity and conservative estimation. There are many new designs that have been proven to generate more credible MTD estimation, such as the Continual Reassessment Method (CRM). Despite its accepted better performance, the CRM design is still not widely used in real trials. There are several factors that contribute to the difficulties of CRM adaption in practice. First, CRM is not widely accepted by the regulatory agencies such as FDA in terms of safety. It is considered to be less conservative and tend to expose more patients above the MTD level than the traditional design. Second, CRM is relatively complex and not intuitive for the clinicians to fully understand. Third, the CRM method take much more time and need statistical experts and computer programs throughout the trial. The current situation is that the clinicians still tend to follow the trial process that they are comfortable with. This situation is not likely to change in the near future. Based on this situation, we have the motivation to improve the accuracy of MTD selection while follow the procedure of the traditional design to maintain simplicity. We found that in 3+3 method, the dose transition and the MTD determination are relatively independent. Thus we proposed to separate the two stages. The dose transition rule remained the same as 3+3 method. After getting the toxicity information from the dose transition stage, we combined the isotonic transformation to ensure the monotonic increasing order before selecting the optimal MTD. To compare the operating characteristics of the proposed isotonic method and the other designs, we carried out 10,000 simulation trials under different dose setting scenarios to compare the design characteristics of the isotonic modified method with standard 3+3 method, CRM, biased coin design (BC) and k-in-a-row design (KIAW). The isotonic modified method improved MTD estimation of the standard 3+3 in 39 out of 40 scenarios. The improvement is much greater when the target is 0.3 other than 0.25. The modified design is also competitive when comparing with other selected methods. A CRM method performed better in general but was not as stable as the isotonic method throughout the different dose settings. The results demonstrated that our proposed isotonic modified method is not only easily conducted using the same procedure as 3+3 but also outperforms the conventional 3+3 design. It can also be applied to determine MTD for any given TTL. These features make the isotonic modified method of practical value in phase I clinical trials.

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Recommended Citation

Song, Yue, "Modified 3+3 design for phase I clinical trials" (2013). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1538848.