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Improving safety of the continual reassessment method via a modified allocation rule

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/03/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Statistics in Medicine
Issue number7
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)906-922
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date20/12/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article proposes a novel criterion for the allocation of patients in phase I dose-escalation clinical trials, aiming to find the maximum tolerated dose (MTD). Conventionally, using a model-based approach, the next patient is allocated to the dose with the toxicity estimate closest (in terms of the absolute or squared distance) to the maximum acceptable toxicity. This approach, however, ignores the uncertainty in point estimates and ethical concerns of assigning a lot of patients to overly toxic doses. In fact, balancing the trade-off between how accurately the MTD can be estimated and how many patients would experience adverse events is one of the primary challenges in phase I studies. Motivated by recent discussions in the theory of estimation in restricted parameter spaces, we propose a criterion that allows to balance these explicitly. The criterion requires a specification of one additional parameter only that has a simple and intuitive interpretation. We incorporate the proposed criterion into the one-parameter Bayesian continual reassessment method and show, using simulations, that it can result in similar accuracy on average as the original design, but with fewer toxic responses on average. A comparison with other model-based dose-escalation designs, such as escalation with overdose control and its modifications, demonstrates that the proposed design can result in either the same mean accuracy as alternatives but fewer toxic responses or in a higher mean accuracy but the same number of toxic responses. Therefore, the proposed design can provide a better trade-off between the accuracy and the number of patients experiencing adverse events, making the design a more ethical alternative over some of the existing methods for phase I trials.