Single-arm trials supporting the approval of anticancer medicinal products in the European Union: contextualization of trial results and observed clinical benefit.



We focused on anticancer medicinal products for solid tumors approved on the basis of SAT results (2012-2021). Data were retrieved from European public assessment reports and/or published literature. The benefit of these medicinal products was evaluated via the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)-Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale (MCBS).


Eighteen medicinal products were approved based on 21 SATs-few medicinal products were supported by >1 SAT. For the majority of clinical trials, a clinically relevant treatment effect was (pre)specified (71.4%) and most often an accompanying sample size calculation was provided. For 10 studies, each testing a different medicinal product, a justification for the threshold for a clinically relevant treatment effect could be identified. At least 12 out of 18 applications included information to facilitate the contextualization of trial results, including six supportive studies. Of the pivotal SATs analyzed (n = 21), three were assigned an ESMO-MCBS score of 4, which corresponds to 'substantial' benefit.


The clinical relevance of the treatment effects shown by medicinal products for solid tumors tested in SATs is dependent on the effect size and context. To better facilitate regulatory decision making, prespecifying and motivating a clinically relevant effect and aligning the sample size to that effect is important. External controls may facilitate in the contextualization process, but the associated limitations must be addressed.


Single-arm trials (SATs) can sometimes be used to support marketing authorization of anticancer medicinal products in the European Union. The level and durability of antitumor activity of the product as well as context are important aspects to determine the relevance of trial results. The aim of this study is to provide details on the contextualization of trial results and to evaluate the magnitude of benefit of medicinal products approved based on SATs.

More about this publication

ESMO open
  • Volume 8
  • Issue nr. 2
  • Pages 101209
  • Publication date 01-04-2023

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