Nowadays, treatment regimens for cancer often involve a combination of drugs. The determination of the doses of each of the combined drugs in phase I dose escalation studies poses methodological challenges. The most common phase I design, the classic '3+3' design, has been criticized for poorly estimating the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) and for treating too many subjects at doses below the MTD. In addition, the classic '3+3' is not able to address the challenges posed by combinations of drugs. Here, we assume that a control drug (commonly used and well-studied) is administered at a fixed dose in combination with a new agent (the experimental drug) of which the appropriate dose has to be determined. We propose a randomized design in which subjects are assigned to the control or to the combination of the control and experimental. The MTD is determined using a model-based Bayesian technique based on the difference of probability of dose limiting toxicities (DLT) between the control and the combination arm. We show, through a simulation study, that this approach provides better and more accurate estimates of the MTD. We argue that this approach may differentiate between an extreme high probability of DLT observed from the control and a high probability of DLT of the combination. We also report on a fictive (simulation) analysis based on published data of a phase I trial of ifosfamide combined with sunitinib.

Bayesian, combination, controlled trial, dose escalation, phase I, randomized trial,
Pharmaceutical Statistics
Department of Medical Oncology

Dejardin, D, Lesaffre, E.M.E.H, Hamberg, A.P, & Verweij, J. (2014). A randomized phase i Bayesian dose escalation design for the combination of anti-cancer drugs. Pharmaceutical Statistics, 13(3), 196–207. doi:10.1002/pst.1618