Modelling semi-attributable toxicity in dual-agent phase I trials with non-concurrent drug administration

Graham M. Wheeler*, Michael J. Sweeting, Adrian P. Mander, Shing M. Lee, Ying Kuen K. Cheung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In oncology, combinations of drugs are often used to improve treatment efficacy and/or reduce harmful side effects. Dual-agent phase I clinical trials assess drug safety and aim to discover a maximum tolerated dose combination via dose-escalation; cohorts of patients are given set doses of both drugs and monitored to see if toxic reactions occur. Dose-escalation decisions for subsequent cohorts are based on the number and severity of observed toxic reactions, and an escalation rule. In a combination trial, drugs may be administered concurrently or non-concurrently over a treatment cycle. For two drugs given non-concurrently with overlapping toxicities, toxicities occurring after administration of the first drug yet before administration of the second may be attributed directly to the first drug, whereas toxicities occurring after both drugs have been given some present ambiguity; toxicities may be attributable to the first drug only, the second drug only or the synergistic combination of both. We call this mixture of attributable and non-attributable toxicity semi-attributable toxicity. Most published methods assume drugs are given concurrently, which may not be reflective of trials with non-concurrent drug administration. We incorporate semi-attributable toxicity into Bayesian modelling for dual-agent phase I trials with non-concurrent drug administration and compare the operating characteristics to an approach where this detail is not considered. Simulations based on a trial for non-concurrent administration of intravesical Cabazitaxel and Cisplatin in early-stage bladder cancer patients are presented for several scenarios and show that including semi-attributable toxicity data reduces the number of patients given overly toxic combinations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-241
Number of pages17
JournalStatistics in Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the reviewer and the associate editor for their constructive and insightful comments, which have greatly improved this article. G.M. Wheeler and A.P. Mander are supported by the Medical Research Council (grant number G0800860). M.J. Sweeting is supported by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award: EPIC-Heart (grant number 268834), the UK Medical Research Council (grant number MR/L003120/1), the British Heart Foundation and the Cambridge National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre. S.M. Lee is supported by the American Cancer Society (grant number MRSG-13-146-01-CPHPS).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors. Statistics in Medicine Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • adaptive designs
  • Bayesian methods
  • dose-toxicity modelling
  • drug combinations
  • phase I trials


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