Factors Affecting Combination Trial Success (FACTS): Investigator Survey Results on Early-Phase Combination Trials
Experimental therapeutic oncology agents are often combined to circumvent tumor resistance to individual agents. However, most combination trials fail to demonstrate sufficient safety and efficacy to advance to a later phase. This study collected survey data on phase 1 combination therapy trials identified from ClinicalTrials.gov between January 1, 2003 and November 30, 2017 to assess trial design and the progress of combinations toward regulatory approval. Online surveys ( = 289, 23 questions total) were emailed to Principal Investigators (PIs) of early-phase National Cancer Institute and/or industry trials; 263 emails (91%) were received and 113 surveys completed (43%). Among phase 1 combination trials, 24.9% (95%CI: 15.3%, 34.4%) progressed to phase 2 or further; 18.7% (95%CI: 5.90%, 31.4%) progressed to phase 3 or regulatory approval; and 12.4% (95%CI: 0.00%, 25.5%) achieved regulatory approval. Observations of "clinical promise" in phase 1 combination studies were associated with higher rates of advancement past each milestone toward regulatory approval (cumulative OR = 11.9; = 0.0002). Phase 1 combination study designs were concordant with Clinical Trial Design Task Force (CTD-TF) Recommendations 79.6% of the time (95%CI: 72.2%, 87.1%). Most discordances occurred where no plausible pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interactions were expected. Investigator-defined "clinical promise" of a combination is associated with progress toward regulatory approval. Although concordance between study designs of phase 1 combination trials and CTD-TF Recommendations was relatively high, it may be beneficial to raise awareness about the best study design to use when no plausible pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamic interactions are expected.