TL4: Challenges and opportunities for statisticians in planning/implementing adaptive trial designs.
*Nan Shao, Covance, Inc. 

Keywords: Adaptive Design, Implementation of Adaptive Trials, Statistician Roles, Challenges and Opportunities

Adaptive trials are increasing in use and scope in clinical trials. While the statistical methodology of adaptive designs has been around for some 50 years, it is only just recently that the industry is seeing a significant uptick in the demand for adaptive designs. The main reasons for this is the realization that clinical trials need to become more efficient, that regulators are increasingly positive on the use of adaptive trials and, importantly, the statistical and operational infrastructure is now in place to efficiently run adaptive clinical trials. The approach to executing adaptive clinical trials is quite different from that of traditional trials. One of the key differences is the role of the statistician. With traditional trials, the role of the statistician is pretty specific in terms of input into the design of the protocol. There is then a period of activity at the beginning of the trial in the specification of the randomization sequences that the statistician is involved in, as well as the programming of the analysis underlying the Statistical Analysis Plan (SAP). Once the database has been locked at the end of the trial, there is a large role for the statistician to perform the detailed statistical analysis. Adaptive trials, on the other hand, require Statisticians to play a much more involved role. Their role in the required extensive upfront planning of adaptive trials is much larger and their involvement with the sponsor and various functional components of the clinical teams is much more involved. During the execution of the trial, the role that Statisticians play in the more frequent interim analyses, or response-adaptive algorithms, inherent in adaptive trials is considerably more encompassing than with traditional trials. The more frequent interaction with the DMC is also a key difference in adaptive trials compared to traditional trials. Key adaptation decisions require continual involvement of the Statisticians. Overall, the role of the Statistician in an adaptive trial is much more comprehensive, much more strategic and much more prevalent throughout the trial. The Statisticians must be more involved with the sponsor (or medical groups within a Pharmaceutical / Biotechnology Company) and potentially with regulatory authorities. These changes in roles in adaptive trials open upon many more opportunities for statisticians in the execution of adaptive trial designs. This roundtable session will address the following questions. First, what is your experience with the changing roles of the statisticians in the adaptive trials that you have been involved with? Second, what do these changes imply about the types of skill sets that statisticians must develop? Third, what are the challenges that you see in re-orienting statisticians from their role in traditional trials to their role in adaptive trials, and what are the opportunities that this opens up to them?