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J Clin Oncol. 2008 Jan 10;26(2):190-5. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.12.7712.

Shortening the timeline of pediatric phase I trials: the rolling six design.

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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Abramson Research Center 916, 3615 Civic Center Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4318, USA.



To shorten the study conduct timeline of pediatric phase I oncology trials by employing a novel trial design.


A comparison of the traditional 3 + 3 patients per cohort, phase I trial design with a novel, rolling six design was performed by using discrete event simulation. The rolling six design allows for accrual of two to six patients concurrently onto a dose level based on the number of patients currently enrolled and evaluable, the number experiencing dose-limiting toxicity (DLT), and the number still at risk of developing a DLT. Clinical trial simulations (n = 1,000) were based on historical data and were performed using SAS 9.1.3 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC). Study timelines and patient numbers were determined for each design, and safety was assessed as a function of the number of DLTs observed.


In twelve completed historical studies, the median time to study completion was 452 days (range, 220 to 606 days); number of evaluable participants enrolled was 22 (range, 11 to 33), and DLTs occurring per study was three (range, 0 to 5). In 1,000 study simulations, in which the average time to new patient accrual was 10 days, the average +/- standard deviation (SD) time to study completion was 294 +/- 75 days for the rolling six design versus 350 +/- 84 days for the 3 + 3 design, whereas the number of DLTs per study was the same (average +/- SD, 3.3 +/- 1.1 v 3.2 +/- 1.1 for the rolling six and 3 + 3 designs, respectively).


The rolling six design may significantly decrease the duration of pediatric phase I studies without increasing the risk of toxicity. The design will be tested prospectively in upcoming Children's Oncology Group phase I trials.

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