Category Archives: Study design

New Online Course from NIH: Pragmatic & Group-Randomized Trials

The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Disease Prevention (ODP) has just released a free, self-paced online course on designing and analyzing pragmatic and group-randomized trials. The course, which is presented by ODP Director Dr. David Murray, includes a series of seven video presentations plus slide sets, reference materials, and guided activities.

Course segments typically last 25 to 35 minutes. Presentations can be accessed individually and include the following topics:

Picture of course presenter Dr. David Murray
Course presenter Dr. David Murray, Director, Office of Disease Prevention, NIH (image courtesy NIH)

The course is designed for faculty, fellows, and graduate students who have had training in the basics of research design and regression analysis. Part 5 (“Examples”) of the presentation includes multiple examples drawn from NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Projects, including the Strategies and Opportunities to Stop Colorectal Cancer (STOP-CRC), Collaborative Care for Chronic Pain in Primary Care (PPACT), Trauma Survivors Outcomes and Support (TSOS), and Improving Chronic Disease Management with Pieces (ICD-PIECES) studies.

New NIH Funding Opportunity to Support Collaboratory Demonstration Projects


A new funding opportunity announcement from the NIH solicits applications to support Demonstration Projects that include an efficient, large-scale pragmatic clinical trial. Trials must be conducted across two or more health care systems (HCS) and must be conducted as part of the NIH HCS Research Collaboratory supported through the NIH Common Fund. Awards made through this FOA will initially support a one-year milestone-driven planning phase (UG3), with possible rapid transition to the second implementation phase (UH3) for a pragmatic trial Demonstration Project.

Access the full funding announcement: RFA-RM-16-019

Important Due Dates
   Earliest submission date: May 2, 2017
   Letter of intent date: 30 days prior to application due date
   Application due date: June 2, 2017

Video Highlights the Importance of Stakeholder Advisory Boards


The PATIENTS program at the University of Maryland has produced a brief video on the role of Stakeholder Advisory Boards. Stakeholders are anyone who cares about the outcomes of a clinical study to inform healthcare decisions. The board’s purpose is to advise the study team during the course of a trial to help ensure the results are relevant and important to all stakeholders.

A Stakeholder Advisory Board comprises a diverse and balanced collection of individuals and organizations from the following groups:

  • Patients, caregivers, and advocacy organizations
  • Clinicians, nursing staff, specialists, and healthcare system administrators
  • Academic investigators and other researchers
  • Public and private healthcare payers
  • Policy and guideline organizations
  • Industry sponsors and therapeutic product developers

The 4-minute video features Ellen Tambor, MA, Senior Research Manager at the Center for Medical Technology Policy and a member of the Collaboratory’s Stakeholder Engagement Core working group.

Watch the YouTube video here.

Trauma Survivors Outcomes and Support (TSOS) trial publishes design paper


The study team for the Trauma Survivors Outcomes and Support (TSOS) trial recently published their study protocol in Implementation Science. TSOS, an NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory Demonstration Project, is an effectiveness-implementation hybrid trial designed to test the delivery of screening and intervention for PTSD and comorbidities across 24 U.S. level I trauma center sites. The study employs a stepped-wedge, cluster-randomized design in which sites are randomized sequentially to initiate the intervention. The study aims to determine if injured patients receiving a collaborative care intervention demonstrate significant reductions in PTSD symptoms when compared with control patients receiving usual care. The study will also evaluate whether intervention patients demonstrate significant reductions in depressive symptoms and associated suicidal ideation, alcohol use problems, and improvements in physical function.

The open access article is available here: An effectiveness-implementation hybrid trial study protocol targeting posttraumatic stress disorder and comorbidity


NIH & FDA seek feedback on new clinical trial protocol template


As part of their ongoing effort to improve the speed and efficiency of conducting clinical trials, the NIH-FDA Joint Leadership Council has created a draft clinical trial protocol template. The template contains instructional and sample text intended to assist NIH-funded investigators in writing protocols for phase 2 or 3 clinical trials that require Investigational New Drug (IND) or Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) applications. Feedback is sought from investigators, investigator-sponsors, institutional review board members, and other stakeholders involved in protocol development and review.

Our goal is to provide an organized way for creative investigators to describe their plans so that others can understand them. – Dr. Pamela McInnes, NIH

Details on the rationale and development of the protocol template are on these blog posts:

Notice Number: NOT-OD-16-043. Responses accepted through April 17, 2016.

You can access the template document as well as a template shell, comment form, and other resources at NIH’s Clinical Research Policy website.

STOP CRC Trial: Analytic Challenges and Pragmatic Solutions


Investigators from the STOP CRC pragmatic trial, an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project, have recently published an article in the journal eGEMs describing solutions to issues that arose in the trial’s implementation phase. STOP CRC tests a program to improve colorectal cancer screening rates in a collaborative network of Federally Qualified Health Centers by mailing fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) kits to screen-eligible patients at clinics in the intervention arm. Clinics in the control arm provided opportunistic colorectal-cancer screening to patients at clinic visits in Year 1 and implemented the intervention in Year 2. In this cluster-randomized trial, clinics are the unit of analysis, rather than individual patients, with the primary outcome being the proportion of screen-eligible patients at each clinic who complete a FIT.

The team dealt with various challenges that threatened the validity of their primary analysis, one of which related to potential contamination of the primary outcome due to the timing of the intervention rollout: for control participants, the Year 2 intervention actively overlapped with the Year 1 control measurements. The other challenge was due to a lack of synchronization between the measurement and accrual windows. To deal with these issues, the team had to slightly modify the study design in addition to developing a few sensitivity analyses to better estimate the true impact of the intervention.

“While the nature of the challenges we encountered are not unique to pragmatic trials, we believe they are likely to be more common in such trials due to both the types of designs commonly used in such studies and the challenges of implementing system-based interventions within freestanding health clinics.” (Vollmer et al. eGEMs 2015)

The Publish EDM Forum Community publishes eGEMs (generating evidence & methods to improve patient outcomes) and provides free and open access to this methods case study. Readers can access the article here.

Findings from STOP CRC on Pragmatic Trial Recruitment


Gloria Coronado, PhD, and Beverly Green, MD, MPH, Principal Investigators, STOP CRC Trial
Gloria Coronado, PhD, and Beverly Green, MD, MPH, Principal Investigators, STOP CRC Trial

Drs. Beverly Green and Gloria Coronado and colleagues have published an article in Clinical Trials describing the challenges of recruiting participants into large, multisite pragmatic clinical trials—particularly at the health system level. STOP CRC is one of the NIH Collaboratory’s pragmatic clinical trial Demonstration Projects, which are intended to provide a framework of implementation methods and best practices to enable participation of varied health care systems in clinical research.

STOP CRC is testing a culturally tailored, health care system–based program to improve colorectal cancer screening rates in a community-based collaborative network of federally qualified health centers. The authors observed that recruiting sites to participate in pragmatic trials is time-intensive and involves both preparing materials and organizing face-to-face meetings with staff and clinic leaders. Yet little is known about the characteristics of nonparticipating sites and clinic-level factors that may influence willingness to participate in a pragmatic trial.

“Our findings underscore the importance of assessing and reporting recruitment success at the organizational and/or clinic level in order to know the external validity of the findings and may inform future efforts to select and recruit health systems to participate in pragmatic research.” (Coronado, et al. Clin Trials 2015)


Designing Fit-for-Purpose Trials with PRECIS-2


Few clinical trials are entirely explanatory (done in an idealized setting) or entirely pragmatic (done in a usual-care setting); rather, trials are situated somewhere along a continuum of applicability. Pragmatic clinical trials are trials designed with pragmatic qualities and are intended to inform decision makers, including patients, clinicians, administrators, and policymakers, about the relative benefits, burdens, and risks of a health intervention.

To help trialists assess how closely their trial’s design matches its intended purpose, a group of trialists and methodologists developed a design tool, the Pragmatic–Explanatory Continuum Indicator Summary, or PRECIS. Originally implemented in 2008, the wheel-shaped indicator tool recently underwent a revision, leading to PRECIS-2. The revised, validated tool guides trialists to prospectively consider the design of their trial along 9 domains: eligibility criteria, recruitment, setting, organization, flexibility (delivery), flexibility (adherence), follow-up, primary outcome, and primary analysis.

PRECIS-2 Wheel
PRECIS-2 Wheel*

*Kirsty Loudon et al. BMJ 2015;350:bmj.h2147. Copyright 2015 by British Medical Journal Publishing Group. Used by permission.

See the PRECIS-2 introductory video (YouTube) and below links for detailed user information.

Health Informatics Centre website
PRECIS-2 Toolkit
Wheel examples

Cluster Randomized Trial Design Featured in JAMA’s Guide to Statistics and Methods Series


A new article published this week in JAMA describes the cluster randomized trial design. The article is part of JAMA’s Guide to Statistics and Methods series, which publishes explanations of analytic and methodologic approaches used in current research articles to help clinicians better understand the research.

In “Cluster Randomized Trials: Evaluating Treatments Applied to Groups,” Drs. William J. Meurer and Roger J. Lewis define cluster randomization, describe its advantages and limitations, and provide guidance on interpreting cluster randomized trials. The article discusses aspects of a recent cluster randomized trial, the RESTORE trial, as an example.

In RESTORE, pediatric intensive care units were randomized to assess the effects of a nurse-implemented sedation protocol for children with acute respiratory failure on mechanical ventilation. As Meurer and Lewis point out, “interventions that involve training multidisciplinary health care teams are practically difficult to conduct using individual-level randomization, as health care practitioners cannot easily unlearn a new way of taking care of patients.” Cluster randomized designs are therefore often used for this type of research, and it is important for clinicians to be able to understand and evaluate these studies.


Reference:
Meurer WJ, Lewis RJ. Cluster randomized trials: evaluating treatments applied to groups. JAMA. 2015;313:2068-2069. PMID: 26010636. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.5199.

Collaboratory Biostatistics and Study Design Core Releases Guidance Documents


The NIH Collaboratory’s Biostatistics and Study Design Core has released the first in a series of guidance documents focusing on statistical design issues for pragmatic clinical trials. Each of the four guidance documents are intended to help researchers by providing a synthesis of current developments in the field, discuss possible future directions, and, where appropriate, make recommendations for application to pragmatic clinical research.

The guidance documents are available through the Living Textbook and can be accessed on the “Tools for Research” tab or directly here.