An Overview of Adaptive Designs and Some of Their Challenges, Benefits, and Innovative Applications

Hongjian Zhu, Weng Kee Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adaptive designs are increasingly developed and used to improve all phases of clinical trials and in biomedical studies in various ways to address different statistical issues. We first present an overview of adaptive designs and note their numerous advantages over traditional clinical trials. In particular, we provide a concrete demonstration that shows how recent adaptive design strategies can further improve an adaptive trial implemented 13 years ago. Despite their usefulness, adaptive designs are still not widely implemented in clinical trials. We offer a few possible reasons and propose some ways to use them more broadly in practice, which include greater availability of software tools and interactive websites to generate optimal adaptive trials freely and effectively, including the use of metaheuristics to facilitate the search for an efficient trial design. To this end, we present several web-based tools for finding various adaptive and nonadaptive optimal designs and discuss nature-inspired metaheuristics. Metaheuristics are assumptions-free general purpose optimization algorithms widely used in computer science and engineering to tackle all kinds of challenging optimization problems, and their use in designing clinical trials is just emerging. We describe a few recent such applications and some of their capabilities for designing various complex trials. Particle swarm optimization is an exemplary nature-inspired algorithm, and similar to others, it has a simple definition but many moving parts, making it hard to study its properties analytically. We investigated one of its hitherto unstudied issues on how to bring back out-of-range candidates during the search for the optimum of the search domain and show that different strategies can impact the success and time of the search. We conclude with a few caveats on the use of metaheuristics for a successful search.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere44171
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics


Dive into the research topics of 'An Overview of Adaptive Designs and Some of Their Challenges, Benefits, and Innovative Applications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this