Large multicenter, randomized controlled trials are the paradigm for determining the efficacy and safety of new therapies. However, applying this classical approach to many areas of transplantation is difficult. For most types of organ transplants, the number of transplants performed is too small for such a trial (lung, pancreas, or vascular composite transplantation are examples). In larger populations such as kidney transplantation, the major unmet needs commonly involve small subsets of patients (antibody-mediated rejection, recurrent renal disease, etc). This issue is not unique to transplantation and has been successfully overcome in other areas of medicine. In oncology, for example, novel trial designs such as adaptive trial design and master protocols are now relatively common. In addition, the existence of multicenter, ongoing clinical research consortia have greatly enhanced the successful implementation of these novel trial designs. In this manuscript, we examine how novel trial designs, master protocols, and research consortia might enhance studies in transplantation aimed at the regulatory approval of new agents. Our premise is that more efficient approaches to clinical trials already exist and, through a coordinated effort by researchers, the pharmaceutical industry, and regulatory bodies like the FDA, they can be implemented in transplantation.
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