Optimal design of a Phase I cancer trial can be formulated as a stochastic optimization problem. By making use of recent advances in approximate dynamic programming to tackle the problem, we develop an approximation of the Bayesian optimal design. The resulting design is a convex combination of a “treatment” design, such as Babb et al.’s (1998) escalation with overdose control, and a “learning” design, such as Haines et al.’s (2003) c-optimal design, thus directly addressing the treatment versus experimentation dilemma inherent in Phase I trials and providing a simple and intuitive design for clinical use. Computational details are given and the proposed design is compared to existing designs in a simulation study. The design can also be readily modified to include a first stage that cautiously escalates doses similarly to traditional nonparametric step-up/down schemes, while validating the Bayesian parametric model for the efficient model-based design in the second stage.
"Approximate Dynamic Programming and Its Applications to the Design of Phase I Cancer Trials." Statist. Sci. 25 (2) 245 - 257, May 2010. https://doi.org/10.1214/10-STS317