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As clinical trials were rapidly initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Data and Safety Monitoring Boards (DSMBs) faced unique challenges overseeing trials of therapies never tested in a disease not yet characterized. Traditionally, individual DSMBs do not interact or have the benefit of seeing data from other accruing trials for an aggregated analysis to meaningfully interpret safety signals of similar therapeutics. In response, we developed a compliant DSMB Coordination (DSMBc) framework to allow the DSMB from one study investigating the use of SARS-CoV-2 convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 to review data from similar ongoing studies for the purpose of safety monitoring.
The DSMBc process included engagement of DSMB chairs and board members, execution of contractual agreements, secure data acquisition, generation of harmonized reports utilizing statistical graphics, and secure report sharing with DSMB members. Detailed process maps, a secure portal for managing DSMB reports, and templates for data sharing and confidentiality agreements were developed.
Four trials participated. Data from one trial were successfully harmonized with that of an ongoing trial. Harmonized reports allowing for visualization and drill down into the data were presented to the ongoing trial’s DSMB. While DSMB deliberations are confidential, the Chair confirmed successful review of the harmonized report.
It is feasible to coordinate DSMB reviews of multiple independent studies of a similar therapeutic in similar patient cohorts. The materials presented mitigate challenges to DSMBc and will help expand these initiatives so DSMBs may make more informed decisions with all available information.
The objective of this paper is to illustrate the advantages of the Bayesian approach in quantifying, presenting, and reporting scientific evidence and in assisting decision making. Three basic components in the Bayesian framework are the prior distribution, likelihood function, and posterior distribution. The prior distribution describes analysts' belief a priori; the likelihood function captures how data modify the prior knowledge; and the posterior distribution synthesizes both prior and likelihood information. The Bayesian approach treats the parameters of interest as random variables, uses the entire posterior distribution to quantify the evidence, and reports evidence in a “probabilistic” manner. Two clinical examples are used to demonstrate the value of the Bayesian approach to decision makers. Using either an uninformative or a skeptical prior distribution, these examples show that the Bayesian methods allow calculations of probabilities that are usually of more interest to decision makers, e.g., the probability that treatment A is similar to treatment B, the probability that treatment A is at least 5% better than treatment B, and the probability that treatment A is not within the “similarity region” of treatment B, etc. In addition, the Bayesian approach can deal with multiple endpoints more easily than the classic approach. For example, if decision makers wish to examine mortality and cost jointly, the Bayesian method can report the probability that a treatment achieves at least 2% mortality reduction and less than $20,000 increase in costs. In conclusion, probabilities computed from the Bayesian approach provide more relevant information to decision makers and are easier to interpret.
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