Practicalities in running early-phase trials using the time-to-event continual reassessment method (TiTE-CRM) for interventions with long toxicity periods using two radiotherapy oncology trials as examples

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2020 Jun 22;20(1):162. doi: 10.1186/s12874-020-01012-z.

Abstract

Background: Awareness of model-based designs for dose-finding studies such as the Continual Reassessment Method (CRM) is now becoming more commonplace amongst clinicians, statisticians and trial management staff. In some settings toxicities can occur a long time after treatment has finished, resulting in extremely long, interrupted, CRM design trials. The Time-to-Event CRM (TiTE-CRM), a modification to the original CRM, accounts for the timing of late-onset toxicities and results in shorter trial duration. In this article, we discuss how to design and deliver a trial using this method, from the grant application stage through to dissemination, using two radiotherapy trials as examples.

Methods: The TiTE-CRM encapsulates the dose-toxicity relationship with a statistical model. The model incorporates observed toxicities and uses a weight to account for the proportion of completed follow-up of participants without toxicity. This model uses all available data to determine the next participant's dose and subsequently declare the maximum tolerated dose. We focus on two trials designed by the authors to illustrate practical issues when designing, setting up, and running such studies.

Results: In setting up a TiTE-CRM trial, model parameters need to be defined and the time element involved might cause complications, therefore looking at operating characteristics through simulations is essential. At the grant application stage, we suggest resources to fund statisticians' time before funding is awarded and make recommendations for the level of detail to include in funding applications. While running the trial, close contact of all involved staff is required as a dose decision is made each time a participant is recruited. We suggest ways of capturing data in a timely manner and give example code in R for design and delivery of the trial. Finally, we touch upon dissemination issues while the trial is running and upon completion.

Conclusion: Model-based designs can be complex. We hope this paper will help clinical trial teams to demystify the conduct of TiTE-CRM trials and be a starting point for using this methodology in practice.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03641547 NCT01562210.

Keywords: Adaptive trial design; Clinical trial design; Dose-finding; Late toxicity; Phase I; TiTE-CRM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03641547
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01562210