Background: Despite progress that has been made in the treatment of many immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs), there remains a need for improved treatments. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) provide the highest form of evidence on the effectiveness of a potential new treatment regimen, but they are extremely expensive and time consuming to conduct. Consequently, much focus has been given in recent years to innovative design and analysis methods that could improve the efficiency of RCTs. In this article, we review the current use and future potential of these methods within the context of IMID trials.
Methods: We provide a review of several innovative methods that would provide utility in IMID research. These include novel study designs (adaptive trials, Sequential Multi-Assignment Randomised Trials, basket, and umbrella trials) and data analysis methodologies (augmented analyses of composite responder endpoints, using high-dimensional biomarker information to stratify patients, and emulation of RCTs from routinely collected data). IMID trials are now well-placed to embrace innovative methods. For example, well-developed statistical frameworks for adaptive trial design are ready for implementation, whilst the growing availability of historical datasets makes the use of Bayesian methods particularly applicable.
To assess whether and how these innovative methods have been used in practice, we conducted a review via PubMed of clinical trials pertaining to any of 51 IMIDs that were published between 2018-20 in five high impact factor clinical journals.
Results: Amongst 97 articles included in the review, 19 (19.6%) used an innovative design method, but most of these were relatively straightforward examples of innovative approaches. Only two (2.1%) reported the use of evidence from routinely collected data, cohorts, or biobanks. Eight (9.2%) collected high-dimensional data.
Conclusions: Application of innovative statistical methodology to IMID trials has the potential to greatly improve efficiency, to generalise and extrapolate trial results, and to further personalise treatment strategies. Currently, such methods are infrequently utilised in practice. New research is required to ensure that IMID trials can benefit from the most suitable methods.