Trends in Phase II Trials for Cancer Therapies

Cancers (Basel). 2021 Jan 7;13(2):178. doi: 10.3390/cancers13020178.


Background: Drug combinations are the standard of care in cancer treatment. Identifying effective cancer drug combinations has become more challenging because of the increasing number of drugs. However, a substantial number of cancer drugs stumble at Phase III clinical trials despite exhibiting favourable efficacy in the earlier Phase. Methods: We analysed recent Phase II cancer trials comprising 2165 response rates to uncover trends in cancer therapies and used a null model of non-interacting agents to infer synergistic and antagonistic drug combinations. We compared our latest efficacy dataset with a previous dataset to assess the progress of cancer therapy. Results: Targeted therapies reach higher response rates when used in combination with cytotoxic drugs. We identify four synergistic and 10 antagonistic combinations based on the observed and expected response rates. We demonstrate that recent targeted agents have not significantly increased the response rates. Conclusions: We conclude that either we are not making progress or response rate measured by tumour shrinkage is not a reliable surrogate endpoint for the targeted agents.

Keywords: Phase II; cancer; clinical trials; drug combinations; overall response rate.