Background: Although aggressive dose escalation strategies were designed to improve the risk-benefit profile of phase 1 oncology trials, they have not been adequately studied. The prevalence of several novel trial designs and their association with a variety of clinical endpoints was evaluated.
Methods: A review of the literature was performed to identify phase 1 oncology studies of cytotoxic agents published from 2002 through 2004.
Results: Of 955 phase 1 oncology articles initially identified, 149 studies, comprising 4532 patients, were analyzed. Only 34% of studies utilized aggressive dose escalation schemes, 22% permitted intrapatient dose escalation, and only 28% enrolled fewer than 3 patients to any dose level. Studies that allowed intrapatient dose escalation or used fewer than 3 patients per dose were not associated with different rates of response or toxicity, nor did they increase the number of patients who received the recommended phase 2 dose. However, aggressive dose escalations were associated with increased rates of both hematologic (17% vs 10%) and nonhematologic (17% vs 13%) toxicity with similar response rates. Only studies that used conservative dose escalation designs and those that studied U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved agents required fewer patients to complete a trial. Trials of FDA-approved agents were also associated with higher response rates than trials of non-FDA-approved agents (10% vs 2%), without an increased risk of toxicity.
Conclusions: Several novel aggressive design strategies intended to improve the risk-benefit profile of phase 1 oncology trials are not associated with improved clinical outcome, and may be harmful in certain instances.