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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Nov 15;13(22 Pt 1):6719-26.

Trends in the use and role of biomarkers in phase I oncology trials.

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  • 1Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.



There has been interest in using biomarkers that aid the evaluation of new anticancer agents. We evaluated trends in the use of biomarkers and their contribution to the main goals of phase I trials.


We did a systematic review of abstracts submitted to the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting from 1991 to 2002 and the publications related to these abstracts. We analyzed the use of biomarkers and their contribution to published phase I trials.


Twenty percent of American Society of Clinical Oncology phase I abstracts (503 of 2458) from 1991 to 2002 included biomarkers. This proportion increased over time (14% in 1991 compared with 26% in 2002; P < 0.02). Independent predictors of the use of biomarkers included National Cancer Institute sponsorship, submission in the time period of 1999 to 2002, adult population, and drug family (biological agents). Biomarkers supported dose selection for phase II studies in 11 of 87 of the trials (13%) emanating from these abstracts. However, the primary determinants of phase II dose and schedule were toxicity and/or efficacy in all but one of these 87 trials (1%). Biomarker studies provided evidence supporting the proposed mechanism of action in 34 of 87 of the published trials (39%).


The use of biomarkers in phase I trials has increased over the period from 1991 to 2002. To date, biomarker utilization has made a limited and primarily supportive contribution to dose selection, the primary end point of phase I studies. Additional studies are needed to determine what type of biomarker information is most valuable to evaluate in phase I trials.

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