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Stat Med. 2015 Jan 30;34(2):232-48. doi: 10.1002/sim.6320. Epub 2014 Oct 16.

Spline-based procedures for dose-finding studies with active control.

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Department of Medical Statistics, University Medical Center Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.


In a dose-finding study with an active control, several doses of a new drug are compared with an established drug (the so-called active control). One goal of such studies is to characterize the dose-response relationship and to find the smallest target dose concentration d(*), which leads to the same efficacy as the active control. For this purpose, the intersection point of the mean dose-response function with the expected efficacy of the active control has to be estimated. The focus of this paper is a cubic spline-based method for deriving an estimator of the target dose without assuming a specific dose-response function. Furthermore, the construction of a spline-based bootstrap CI is described. Estimator and CI are compared with other flexible and parametric methods such as linear spline interpolation as well as maximum likelihood regression in simulation studies motivated by a real clinical trial. Also, design considerations for the cubic spline approach with focus on bias minimization are presented. Although the spline-based point estimator can be biased, designs can be chosen to minimize and reasonably limit the maximum absolute bias. Furthermore, the coverage probability of the cubic spline approach is satisfactory, especially for bias minimal designs.


active control; design considerations; dose-finding study; spline interpolation

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