Evaluating the use of the EORTC patient-reported outcome measures for improving inter-rater reliability of CTCAE ratings in a mixed population of cancer patients: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Trials. 2020 Oct 13;21(1):849. doi: 10.1186/s13063-020-04745-w.


Background: In oncology, detection and tracking of adverse events are of top priority and rely mostly on the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE). Besides, clinical trials use as well patient-reported outcomes (PROs) to assess those adverse events, which are only accessible through patient self-reporting, such as fatigue, pain, and sleep disorders. Especially those issues that are not visible from the outside are often misinterpreted and underestimated by mere provider ratings. This trial aims at evaluating the impact of providing PRO data to providers on the accuracy of adverse event assessment in terms of inter-rater reliability of CTCAE ratings.

Methods: The trial uses a cross-sectional, unblinded, randomized controlled trial design with two trial arms and a single assessment time point. Eligible patients (aged 18 and above, any cancer diagnosis, currently under treatment, inpatient or day clinic setting, present symptom burden, no psychiatric or mental problems, written informed consent) complete an electronic version of the EORTC QLQ-C30 and 16 additional questions taken from the EORTC Item Library. PRO data is immediately processed and made available to CTCAE rating providers for conducting their ratings during the medical encounter. Patients are randomly assigned 1:1 to the intervention group (providers see PRO results on the same screen as the CTCAE rating) and the control group (no access to PRO data during the CTCAE rating). A superiority analysis will compare the inter-rater reliability (using intra-class correlation (ICC) coefficients) between the control and the intervention groups for each adverse event evaluated.

Discussion: The presented trial will demonstrate potential benefits of using PRO measures to improve the reliability of CTCAE ratings in cancer trials and the identification of adverse events. The new insights gained may lead to a new strategy for evaluating adverse events in clinical trials by combining patient and provider ratings. This might also have implications for daily clinical practice and cancer registries.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04066868 . Registered on August 26, 2019. Competence Center for Clinical Trials of the Medical University of Innsbruck 20190513-2007. Registered on May 14, 2019. (version 6.0, March 18, 2019).

Keywords: Cancer; Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE); Electronic data assessment; Inter-rater reliability; Patient-reported outcomes (PROs).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fatigue
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reproducibility of Results

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04066868