The clinical viewpoint: definitions, limitations of RECIST, practical considerations of measurement

Clin Cancer Res. 2013 May 15;19(10):2629-36. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-12-2935.


In selecting an endpoint in clinical trial design, it is important to consider that the endpoint is both reliably measured and clinically meaningful. As such, overall survival (OS) has traditionally been considered the most clinically relevant and convincing endpoint in clinical trial design as long as it is accompanied by preservation in quality of life. However, progression-free survival (PFS) is increasingly more prominent in clinical trial design because of feasibility issues (smaller sample sizes and shorter follow-up). PFS has the advantage of taking into account not only responsive disease, but stable disease as well, an issue of particular importance in the relapsed and refractory setting in which therapies are often associated with a minimal to nil response but may still confer a survival advantage. Finally, PFS has a significant advantage in molecularly selected populations, in whom OS advantages are difficult to detect due to the effects of crossover. With an understanding of the limitations and biases that are introduced with PFS as a primary endpoint, we believe that PFS is not only a viable but also a necessary alternative to OS in assessing the efficacy of selected novel-targeted therapies in molecularly defined cancer populations. Ultimately, the selection of a clinical trial endpoint should not be based on a one-size-fits all approach; rather, it should be based on the specifics of the therapeutic strategy being tested and the population under study.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Endpoint Determination / methods*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Reproducibility of Results