Septic shock carries substantial morbidity and mortality. The failure of many promising therapies during late-phase clinical trials prompted calls for alternative trial designs. We describe an innovative trial evaluating selepressin, a novel selective vasopressin V1a receptor agonist, for adults with septic shock. SEPSIS-ACT (Selepressin Evaluation Programme for Sepsis-induced Shock-Adaptive Clinical Trial) is a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, two-part, adaptive phase 2b/3 trial, evaluating up to four selepressin dosing strategies. The primary outcome is pressor- and ventilator-free days, with a value of zero assigned for death within 30 days. We calculate Bayesian probabilities of final trial success to guide interim decision-making. Part 1 (dose-finding) has an adaptive sample size based on response-adaptive randomization and prespecified rules to determine stopping for futility or selection of the best dosing regimen for Part 2. Part 2 (confirmation) randomizes a minimum of 1,000 patients equally to the selected dosing regimen or placebo. The final estimate of treatment effect compares all selepressin-treated patients with all placebo-treated patients. The sample size of 1,800 provides 91% power to detect an increase of 1.5 pressor- and ventilator-free days with a reduction in mortality of 1.5%. The trial received a Special Protocol Assessment agreement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and is underway in Europe and the United States. SEPSIS-ACT is an innovative trial that addresses both optimal dose and confirmation of benefit, accelerating the evaluation of selepressin while mitigating risks to patients and sponsor through use of response-adaptive randomization, a novel registration endpoint, prespecified futility stopping rules, and a large sample size. Clinical Trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02508649).
Keywords: adaptive clinical trial design; septic shock; vasopressor treatment.