Clinical Research

First-in-Human Phase 1 Studies in Oncology: The New Challenge for Investigative Sites

Marc Salzberg


Phase 1 first-in-human studies with anti-cancer products differ from other phase 1 studies in that they are evaluated in patients rather than healthy volunteers. The rationale design of targeted drugs triggers changes in the design of these studies. Patient populations are more precisely defined and pose a challenge to the efficient inclusion of study patients. Objectives shift from the definition of a maximum tolerated dose to the evaluation of a recommended phase 2 dose. Other challenges related to the efficacy and safety profile of novel targeted anti-cancer drugs call for changes in designing first-in-human studies, such as definitions of biological doses, collection of fresh tumor tissue for surrogate marker analyses, and the management of infusion-related reactions with monoclonal antibodies. Consequently, the conduct of phase 1 clinical trials in oncology requires changes. Corresponding education with particular focus on phase 1 trials and on the complex drug development process needs to be an integrated part of the medical oncology curriculum for physicians and nursing staff. This is a crucial element for institutions to remain or become clinical research sites for phase 1 studies, and to participate in the drug development process of novel anti-cancer compounds in the future.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2012;3(2):e0007