Bayesian randomized clinical trials: From fixed to adaptive design

Guosheng Yin, Chi Kin Lam, Haolun Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Randomized controlled studies are the gold standard for phase III clinical trials. Using α-spending functions to control the overall type I error rate, group sequential methods are well established and have been dominating phase III studies. Bayesian randomized design, on the other hand, can be viewed as a complement instead of competitive approach to the frequentist methods. For the fixed Bayesian design, the hypothesis testing can be cast in the posterior probability or Bayes factor framework, which has a direct link to the frequentist type I error rate. Bayesian group sequential design relies upon Bayesian decision-theoretic approaches based on backward induction, which is often computationally intensive. Compared with the frequentist approaches, Bayesian methods have several advantages. The posterior predictive probability serves as a useful and convenient tool for trial monitoring, and can be updated at any time as the data accrue during the trial. The Bayesian decision-theoretic framework possesses a direct link to the decision making in the practical setting, and can be modeled more realistically to reflect the actual cost–benefit analysis during the drug development process. Other merits include the possibility of hierarchical modeling and the use of informative priors, which would lead to a more comprehensive utilization of information from both historical and longitudinal data. From fixed to adaptive design, we focus on Bayesian randomized controlled clinical trials and make extensive comparisons with frequentist counterparts through numerical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive design
  • Bayesian trial design
  • Group sequential methods
  • Phase III clinical trial
  • Power
  • Randomized study
  • Type I error rate


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