From the Broad Phase II Trial to Precision Oncology: A Perspective on the Origins of Basket and Umbrella Clinical Trial Designs in Cancer Drug Development

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Oncologic phase II trials that evaluate the activity of new therapeutic agents have evolved dramatically over the past 50 years. The standard approach beginning in the late 1960s focused on individual studies that evaluated new anticancer agents against a wide range of both solid and hematopoietic malignancies often in a single “broad phase II trial” that included hundreds of patients; such studies efficiently established the landscape for subsequent development of a specific drug with respect to likely disease focus, toxicity, dose, and schedule. In the 1980s and 1990s, emphasis on histological context drove an explosion in the number of individual phase II trials conducted; despite this increase in trial activity, investigations based on histology per se failed to improve the success rate of new agents brought to the clinic. Over the past 20 years, evolution toward a molecular drug development paradigm has demonstrably improved our ability to select patients more likely to benefit from systemic treatment; simultaneously, technological advances have permitted initial attempts at the rapid assignment of therapy based on predefined molecular characteristics of tumor or germline in broad-based master protocols that are inclusive of many diseases and molecularly characterized disease subsets, akin to but much more sophisticated scientifically than the broad phase II platforms of the past.

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