Moving a randomized clinical trial into an observational cohort.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Clinical trials (London, England) (2012)


November 2012, Public Health Sciences Division


BACKGROUND: The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled prostate cancer prevention study funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG). A total of 35,533 men were assigned randomly to one of the four treatment groups (vitamin E + placebo, selenium + placebo, vitamin E + selenium, and placebo + placebo). The independent Data and Safety Monitoring Committee (DSMC) recommended the discontinuation of study supplements because of the lack of efficacy for risk reduction and because futility analyses demonstrated no possibility of benefit of the supplements to the anticipated degree (25% reduction in prostate cancer incidence) with additional follow-up. Study leadership agreed that the randomized trial should be terminated but believed that the cohort should be maintained and followed as the additional follow-up would contribute important information to the understanding of the biologic consequences of the intervention. Since the participants no longer needed to be seen in person to assess acute toxicities or to be given study supplements, it was determined that the most efficient and cost-effective way to follow them was via a central coordinated effort. PURPOSE: A number of changes were necessary at the local Study Sites and SELECT Statistical Center to transition to following participants via a Central Coordinating Center. We describe the transition process from a randomized clinical trial to the observational Centralized Follow-Up (CFU) study. METHODS: The process of transitioning SELECT, implemented at more than 400 Study Sites across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, entailed many critical decisions and actions including updates to online documents such as the SELECT Workbench and Study Manual, a protocol amendment, reorganization of the Statistical Center, creation of a Transition Committee, development of materials for SELECT Study Sites, development of procedures to close Study Sites, and revision of data collection procedures and the process by which to contact participants. RESULTS: At the time of the publication of the primary SELECT results in December 2008, there were 32,569 men alive and currently active in the trial. As of 31 December 2011, 17,761 participants had been registered to the CFU study. This number is less than had been anticipated due to unforeseen difficulties with local Study Site institutional review boards (IRBs). However, from this cohort, we estimate that an additional 580 prostate cancer cases and 215 Gleason 7 or higher grade cancers will be identified. Over 109,000 individual items have been mailed to participants. Active SELECT ancillary studies have continued. The substantial SELECT biorepository is available to researchers; requests to use the specimens are reviewed for feasibility and scientific merit. As of April 2012, 12 proposals had been approved. LIMITATIONS: The accrual goal of the follow-up study was not met, limiting our power to address the study objectives satisfactorily. The CFU study is also dependent on a number of factors including continued funding, continued interest of investigators in the biorepository, and the continued contribution of the participants. Our experience may be less pertinent to investigators who wish to follow participants in a treatment trial or participants in prevention trials in other medical areas. CONCLUSIONS: Extended follow-up of participants in prevention research is important to study the long-term effects of the interventions, such as those used in SELECT. The approach taken by SELECT investigators was to continue to follow participants centrally via an annual questionnaire and with a web-based option. The participants enrolled in the CFU study represent a large, well-characterized, generally healthy cohort. The CFU has enabled us to collect additional prostate and other cancer endpoints and longer follow-up on the almost 18,000 participants enrolled. The utility of the extensive biorepository that was developed during the course of the SELECT is enhanced by longer follow-up. Clinical Trials 2012; 0: 1-12