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When should factorial designs be used for late-phase randomised controlled trials?

White, Ian R; Szubert, Alexander J; Choodari-Oskooei, Babak; Walker, A Sarah; Parmar, Mahesh KB; (2023) When should factorial designs be used for late-phase randomised controlled trials? Clinical Trials 10.1177/17407745231206261. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: A 2×2 factorial design evaluates two interventions (A versus control and B versus control) by randomising to control, A-only, B-only or both A and B together. Extended factorial designs are also possible (e.g. 3×3 or 2×2×2). Factorial designs often require fewer resources and participants than alternative randomised controlled trials, but they are not widely used. We identified several issues that investigators considering this design need to address, before they use it in a late-phase setting. / Methods: We surveyed journal articles published in 2000–2022 relating to designing factorial randomised controlled trials. We identified issues to consider based on these and our personal experiences. / Results: We identified clinical, practical, statistical and external issues that make factorial randomised controlled trials more desirable. Clinical issues are (1) interventions can be easily co-administered; (2) risk of safety issues from co-administration above individual risks of the separate interventions is low; (3) safety or efficacy data are wanted on the combination intervention; (4) potential for interaction (e.g. effect of A differing when B administered) is low; (5) it is important to compare interventions with other interventions balanced, rather than allowing randomised interventions to affect the choice of other interventions; (6) eligibility criteria for different interventions are similar. Practical issues are (7) recruitment is not harmed by testing many interventions; (8) each intervention and associated toxicities is unlikely to reduce either adherence to the other intervention or overall follow-up; (9) blinding is easy to implement or not required. Statistical issues are (10) a suitable scale of analysis can be identified; (11) adjustment for multiplicity is not required; (12) early stopping for efficacy or lack of benefit can be done effectively. External issues are (13) adequate funding is available and (14) the trial is not intended for licensing purposes. An overarching issue (15) is that factorial design should give a lower sample size requirement than alternative designs. Across designs with varying non-adherence, retention, intervention effects and interaction effects, 2×2 factorial designs require lower sample size than a three-arm alternative when one intervention effect is reduced by no more than 24%–48% in the presence of the other intervention compared with in the absence of the other intervention. / Conclusions: Factorial designs are not widely used and should be considered more often using our issues to consider. Low potential for at most small to modest interaction is key, for example, where the interventions have different mechanisms of action or target different aspects of the disease being studied.

Type: Article
Title: When should factorial designs be used for late-phase randomised controlled trials?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/17407745231206261
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/17407745231206261
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2023.This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Lficense (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Keywords: Randomised controlled trial, clinical trial, design, factorial
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Inst of Clinical Trials and Methodology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Inst of Clinical Trials and Methodology > MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10176798
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