Phase II trials are screening trials that seek to identify agents with sufficient activity to continue development and those for which further evaluation should be halted. Although definitive phase III trials use progression-free or overall survival to confirm clinical benefit, earlier endpoints are preferable for phase II trials. Traditionally, tumor shrinkage of a predetermined degree (response) has been used as a surrogate of eventual survival benefit based on the observation that high response rates (RR), and particularly complete responses, in the phase II setting resulted in survival benefit in subsequent phase III trials. Recently, some molecularly targeted agents have shown survival and clinical benefit despite very modest RRs in early clinical trials. These observations provide a major conundrum, with concerns of inappropriate termination of development for active agents with low RRs being balanced by concerns of inactive agents being taken to late-phase development with resultant increases in the failure rate of phase III trials. Numerous alternate or complementary endpoints have been explored, incorporating multinomial endpoints (including progression and response), progression-free survival, biomarkers, and, more recently, evaluation oftumor size as a continuous variable. In this review, we discuss the current status of phase II endpoints and present retrospective analyses of two international gastrointestinal cancer studies showing the potential utility of one novel approach. Alternate endpoints, although promising, require additional evaluation and prospective validation before their use as a primary endpoint for phase II trials.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research