Shortcomings in the clinical evaluation of new drugs: acute myeloid leukemia as paradigm.

Blood

PubMedID: 20538802

Walter RB, Appelbaum FR, Tallman MS, Weiss NS, Larson RA, Estey EH. Shortcomings in the clinical evaluation of new drugs: acute myeloid leukemia as paradigm. Blood. 2010;116(14):2420-8.
Drugs introduced over the past 25 years have benefitted many patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and provided cure for some. Still, AML remains difficult to treat, and most patients will eventually die from their disease. Therefore, novel drugs and drug combinations are under intense investigation, and promising results eagerly awaited and embraced. However, drug development is lengthy and costs are staggering. While the phase 1-phase 2-phase 3 sequence of clinical drug testing has remained inviolate for decades, it appears intrinsically inefficient, and scientific flaws have been noted by many authors. Of major concern is the high frequency of false-positive results obtained in phase 2 studies. Here, we review features of phase 2 trials in AML that may contribute to this problem, particularly lack of control groups, patient heterogeneity, selection bias, and choice of end points. Recognizing these problems and challenges should provide us with opportunities to make drug development more efficient and less costly. We also suggest strategies for trial design improvement. Although our focus is on the treatment of AML, the principles that we highlight should be broadly applicable to the evaluation of new treatments for a variety of diseases.