An adaptive design for updating the threshold value of a continuous biomarker


Potential predictive biomarkers are often measured on a continuous scale, but in practice, a threshold value to divide the patient population into biomarker ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ is desirable. Early phase clinical trials are increasingly using biomarkers for patient selection, but at this stage, it is likely that little will be known about the relationship between the biomarker and the treatment outcome. We describe a single-arm trial design with adaptive enrichment, which can increase power to demonstrate efficacy within a patient subpopulation, the parameters of which are also estimated. Our design enables us to learn about the biomarker and optimally adjust the threshold during the study, using a combination of generalised linear modelling and Bayesian prediction. At the final analysis, a binomial exact test is carried out, allowing the hypothesis that ‘no population subset exists in which the novel treatment has a desirable response rate’ to be tested. Through extensive simulations, we are able to show increased power over fixed threshold methods in many situations without increasing the type-I error rate. We also show that estimates of the threshold, which defines the population subset, are unbiased and often more precise than those from fixed threshold studies. We provide an example of the method applied (retrospectively) to publically available data from a study of the use of tamoxifen after mastectomy by the German Breast Study Group, where progesterone receptor is the biomarker of interest.

Statistics in Medicine 2016; 35(27):4909-4923