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Optimal marker-strategy clinical trial design to detect predictive markers for targeted therapy

07 Mar 2016


In developing targeted therapy, the marker-strategy design (MSD) provides an important approach to evaluate the predictive marker effect. This design first randomizes patients into non-marker-based or marker-based strategies. Patients allocated to the non-marker-based strategy are then further randomized to receive either the standard or targeted treatments, while patients allocated to the marker-based strategy receive treatments based on their marker statuses. Little research has been done on the statistical properties of the MSD, which has led to some widespread misconceptions and placed clinical researchers at high risk of using inefficient designs. In this article, we show that the commonly used between-strategy comparison has low power to detect the predictive effect and is valid only under a restrictive condition that the randomization ratio within the non-marker-based strategy matches the marker prevalence. We propose a Wald test that is generally valid and also uniformly more powerful than the between-strategy comparison. Based on that, we derive an optimal MSD that maximizes the power to detect the predictive marker effect by choosing the optimal randomization ratios between the two strategies and treatments. Our numerical study shows that using the proposed optimal designs can substantially improve the power of the MSD to detect the predictive marker effect. We use a lung cancer trial to illustrate the proposed optimal designs.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Biostatistics