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Clin Trials. 2019 Dec;16(6):645-656. doi: 10.1177/1740774519871471. Epub 2019 Aug 26.

Bayesian clinical trials at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: An update.

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Department of Biostatistics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.



In our 2009 article, we showed that Bayesian methods had established a foothold in developing therapies in our institutional oncology trials. In this article, we will document what has happened since that time. In addition, we will describe barriers to implementing Bayesian clinical trials, as well as our experience overcoming them.


We reviewed MD Anderson Cancer Center clinical trials submitted to the institutional protocol office for scientific and ethical review between January 2009 and December 2013, the same length time period as the previous article. We tabulated Bayesian methods implemented for design or analyses for each trial and then compared these to our previous findings.


Overall, we identified 1020 trials and found that 283 (28%) had Bayesian components so we designated them as Bayesian trials. Among MD Anderson-only and multicenter trials, 56% and 14%, respectively, were Bayesian, higher rates than our previous study. Bayesian trials were more common in phase I/II trials (34%) than in phase III/IV (6%) trials. Among Bayesian trials, the most commonly used features were for toxicity monitoring (65%), efficacy monitoring (36%), and dose finding (22%). The majority (86%) of Bayesian trials used non-informative priors. A total of 75 (27%) trials applied Bayesian methods for trial design and primary endpoint analysis. Among this latter group, the most commonly used methods were the Bayesian logistic regression model (N = 22), the continual reassessment method (N = 20), and adaptive randomization (N = 16). Median institutional review board approval time from protocol submission was the same 1.4 months for Bayesian and non-Bayesian trials. Since the previous publication, the Biomarker-Integrated Approaches of Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination (BATTLE) trial was the first large-scale decision trial combining multiple treatments in a single trial. Since then, two regimens in breast cancer therapy have been identified and published from the cooperative Investigation of Serial Studies to Predict Your Therapeutic Response with Imaging and Molecular Analysis (I-SPY 2), enhancing cooperation among investigators and drug developers across the nation, as well as advancing information needed for personalized medicine. Many software programs and Shiny applications for Bayesian trial design and calculations are available from our website which has had more than 21,000 downloads worldwide since 2004.


Bayesian trials have the increased flexibility in trial design needed for personalized medicine, resulting in more cooperation among researchers working to fight against cancer. Some disadvantages of Bayesian trials remain, but new methods and software are available to improve their function and incorporation into cancer clinical research.


Bayesian clinical trials; Bayesian methods; MD Anderson; cancer clinical trials

[Available on 2020-12-01]

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