Send to

Choose Destination
Clin Cancer Res. 2015 Oct 15;21(20):4552-60. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-15-0124.

Failures in Phase III: Causes and Consequences.

Author information

Department of Medical Oncology, Institute of Oncology Ljubljana and University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Translational Oncology Unit, Albacete University Hospital, Albacete, Spain.
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


Phase III randomized controlled trials (RCT) in oncology fail to lead to registration of new therapies more often than RCTs in other medical disciplines. Most RCTs are sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, which reflects industry's increasing responsibility in cancer drug development. Many preclinical models are unreliable for evaluation of new anticancer agents, and stronger evidence of biologic effect should be required before a new agent enters the clinical development pathway. Whenever possible, early-phase clinical trials should include pharmacodynamic studies to demonstrate that new agents inhibit their molecular targets and demonstrate substantial antitumor activity at tolerated doses in an enriched population of patients. Here, we review recent RCTs and found that these conditions were not met for most of the targeted anticancer agents, which failed in recent RCTs. Many recent phase III RCTs were initiated without sufficient evidence of activity from early-phase clinical trials. Because patients treated within such trials can be harmed, they should not be undertaken. The bar should also be raised when making decisions to proceed from phase II to III and from phase III to marketing approval. Many approved agents showed only better progression-free survival than standard treatment in phase III trials and were not shown to improve survival or its quality. Introduction of value-based pricing of new anticancer agents would dissuade the continued development of agents with borderline activity in early-phase clinical trials. When collaborating with industry, oncologists should be more critical and better advocates for cancer patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center