Background: The clinical trials community has a never-ending search for dependable and reliable ways to improve clinical research. This exploration has led to considerable interest in adaptive clinical trial designs, which provide the flexibility to adjust trial characteristics on the basis of data reviewed at interim stages. Statisticians and clinical investigators have proposed or implemented a wide variety of adaptations in clinical trials, but specific approaches have met with differing levels of support. Within industry, investigators are actively exploring the benefits and pitfalls associated with adaptive designs (ADs). For example, a Drug Information Association (DIA) working group on ADs has engaged regulatory agencies in discussions. Many researchers working on publicly funded clinical trials, however, are not yet fully engaged in this discussion. We organized the Scientific Advances in Adaptive Clinical Trial Designs Workshop to begin a conversation about using ADs in publicly funded research. Held in November of 2009, the 1½-day workshop brought together representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the pharmaceutical industry, nonprofit foundations, the patient advocacy community, and academia. The workshop offered a forum for participants to address issues of ADs that arise at the planning, designing, and execution stages of clinical trials, and to hear the perspectives of influential members of the clinical trials community. The participants also set forth recommendations for guiding action to promote the appropriate use of ADs. These recommendations have since been presented, discussed, and vetted in a number of venues including the University of Pennsylvania Conference on Statistical Issues in Clinical Trials and the Society for Clinical Trials annual meeting.
Purpose: To provide a brief overview of ADs, describe the rationale behind conducting the workshop, and summarize the main recommendations that were produced as a result of this workshop.
Conclusions: There is a growing interest in the use of adaptive clinical trial designs. However, a number of logistical barriers need to be addressed in order to obtain the potential advantages of an AD. Currently, the pharmaceutical industry is well ahead of academic trialists with respect to addressing these barriers. Academic trialists will need to address important issues such as education, infrastructure, modifications to existing funding models, and the impact on Data and Safety Monitoring Boards (DSMB) in order to achieve the possible benefits of adaptive clinical trial designs.