This paper reviews the survival outcome from the randomized Phase III trials in solid tumours published on behalf of, or in collaboration with, the Cancer Therapy Committee (CTC) of the British Medical Research Council over a 30-year period to 31 December 1995. We review briefly the innovations in statistical methodology that have occurred over the period. We also note the ways in which standards of reporting the trials have improved, with more recent publications including, for example, estimates of the size of effect and confidence intervals. In all, 32 trials, involving over 5000 deaths in more than 8000 patients, have been published. Tumour types have included bladder, bone, brain, cervix, colon and rectum, head and neck, kidney, lung, ovary, prostate and skin. This paper presents a bibliography of these trials and gives details of the treatment comparisons made, the numbers of patients randomized and included in the analysis for each treatment arm, the observed numbers of deaths, and an estimate of the hazard ratio with associated 95% confidence intervals. The bibliography also indicates the main endpoint of each trial, whether recurrence-free survival or survival, and whether the trial was aimed at finding a difference or showing equivalence. The MRC trials have made an impact on both clinical practice and research activities. For example, the lung cancer programme has helped to establish the role of chemotherapy in small cell lung cancer and has developed better palliative treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. Trials of the radiosensitizer misonidazole have demonstrated that it has no role in the treatment of a number of cancers, trials of hyperbaric oxygen have defined the biological activity of this approach, and the appropriate dose of radiotherapy in patients with brain tumours has been found. The individual trials recruited between 44 and 824 patients (median 213). A better measure of the information in a trial is the number of deaths reported, which varied from 28 to 661 median 145). A large proportion of the comparisons (8/29 or 28%) anticipating a survival difference, demonstrated such a difference at the 5% level of significance. Despite this, it is concluded that some of the trials should have been larger. In such cases, hindsight suggests either that an overoptimistic view of the anticipated survival benefit was taken at the design stage, or, for equivalence trials, the planned confidence interval was too wide for definitive statements to be made. As a consequence, the current CTC profolio of ongoing randomized trials open to patient accrual at 1 January 1996 have a projected median size of 600 and range from 120 to 2000 patients.
We should like to acknowledge the support of the MRC Cancer Therapy Committee,
particulary R. L. Souhami (a former chairman) and C. J. Williams (chairman). The invaluable help of R. Peto (Clinical Trial Service Unit, Oxford), I. Chalmers (UK Cochrane Centre, Oxford) and M. Buyse (International Institute for Drug Development, Brussels) in stimulating the need for, and commenting on, this paper is much appreciated.
- Medical Research Council
- Randomized trials
- Solid tumours