Background and aims: Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) constitutes a significant unmet medical need with a burgeoning field of clinical research and drug development. Platform trials (PT) might help accelerate drug development while lowering overall costs and creating a more patient-centric environment. This review provides a comprehensive and nuanced assessment of the NASH clinical development landscape.
Methods: Narrative review and expert opinion with insight gained during the EU Patient-cEntric clinicAl tRial pLatforms (EU-PEARL) project.
Results: Although NASH represents an opportunity to use adaptive trial designs, including master protocols for PT, there are barriers that might be encountered owing to distinct and sometimes opposing priorities held by these stakeholders and potential ways to overcome them. The following aspects are critical for the feasibility of a future PT in NASH: readiness of the drug pipeline, mainly from large drug companies, while there is not yet an FDA/EMA-approved treatment; the most suitable design (trial Phase and type of population, e.g., Phase 2b for non-cirrhotic NASH patients); the operational requirements such as the scope of the clinical network, the use of concurrent versus non-concurrent control arms, or the re-allocation of participants upon trial adaptations; the methodological appraisal (i.e. Bayesian vs. frequentist approach); patients' needs and patient-centred outcomes; main regulatory considerations and the funding and sustainability scenarios.
Conclusions: PT represent a promising avenue in NASH but there are a number of conundrums that need addressing. It is likely that before a global NASH PT becomes a reality, 'proof-of-platform' at a smaller scale needs to be provided.