Reporting of master protocols towards a standardized approach: A systematic review Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Background: In September 2018 the FDA provided a draft guidance on master protocols reflecting an increased interest in these designs by industry. Master protocols refer to a single overarching protocol developed to evaluate multiple hypotheses and may be further categorized as basket, umbrella, and platform trials. However, inconsistencies in reporting persist in the literature. We conducted a systematic review to describe master protocol reporting with the goal of facilitating the further development and spread of these innovative trial designs. Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CENTRAL from inception to April 25, 2019 for English articles on master protocols. This was supplemented by hand searches of trial registries and of the bibliographies of published reviews. We used the FDA's definitions of master protocols as references and compared them to self-reported master protocols. Results: We identified 278 master protocol publications, consisting of 228 protocols and 50 reviews. Sixty-six records provided unique definitions of master protocol types. We observed considerable heterogeneity in definitions of master protocols, and over half (54%) used oncology-specific language. The majority of self-classified master protocols (57%) were consistent with the FDA's definitions of master protocols. Conclusion: The terms 'master protocol', 'basket trial', 'umbrella trial', and 'platform trial' are inconsistently described. Careful treatment of these terms and adherence to the definitions set forth by the FDA will facilitate better understanding of these trial designs and allow them to be used broadly and to their full potential in clinical research. We encourage trial methodologists to use these trial designations when applicable.

publication date

  • September 2019