The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer perspective on designing clinical trials with immune therapeutics

Jessica Menis, Saskia Litière, Konstantinos Tryfonidis, Vassilis Golfinopoulos


Cancer immunotherapy has had a major impact on the established paradigms of drug development and clinical trial research. The innovative mechanism of action of these compounds has resulted in new patterns of response and safety profiles, which pose challenges for the classical trial methodology. In this review we report on the search for the maximum tolerated dose, the recommended phase II dose and the appropriate target population in phase I trials. We provide some statistical considerations on the choice of endpoints for phase II and III trials and the limitations of frequently used trial designs in the presence of a delayed treatment effect, which may be induced by the immune modulating effect of the checkpoint inhibitors. We summarize the currently available data on the safety profile of these new compounds, which can guide protocol safety recommendations. Finally, we report on the current evidence of biomarker development.