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A framework for identifying treatment-covariate interactions in individual participant data network meta-analysis

Freeman, SC; Fisher, D; Tierney, JF; Carpenter, JR; (2018) A framework for identifying treatment-covariate interactions in individual participant data network meta-analysis. Research Synthesis Methods , 9 (3) pp. 393-407. 10.1002/jrsm.1300. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Stratified medicine seeks to identify patients most likely to respond to treatment. Individual participant data (IPD) network meta-analysis (NMA) models have greater power than individual trials to identify treatment-covariate interactions (TCIs). Treatment-covariate interactions contain "within" and "across" trial interactions, where the across-trial interaction is more susceptible to confounding and ecological bias. METHODS: We considered a network of IPD from 37 trials (5922 patients) for cervical cancer (2394 events), where previous research identified disease stage as a potential interaction covariate. We compare 2 models for NMA with TCIs: (1) 2 effects separating within- and across-trial interactions and (2) a single effect combining within- and across-trial interactions. We argue for a visual assessment of consistency of within- and across-trial interactions and consider more detailed aspects of interaction modelling, eg, common vs trial-specific effects of the covariate. This leads us to propose a practical framework for IPD NMA with TCIs. RESULTS: Following our framework, we found no evidence in the cervical cancer network for a treatment-stage interaction on the basis of the within-trial interaction. The NMA provided additional power for an across-trial interaction over and above the pairwise evidence. Following our proposed framework, we found that the within- and across-trial interactions should not be combined. CONCLUSION: Across-trial interactions are susceptible to confounding and ecological bias. It is important to separate the sources of evidence to check their consistency and identify which sources of evidence are driving the conclusion. Our framework provides practical guidance for researchers, reducing the risk of unduly optimistic interpretation of TCIs.

Type: Article
Title: A framework for identifying treatment-covariate interactions in individual participant data network meta-analysis
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/jrsm.1300
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1002/jrsm.1300
Language: English
Additional information: © 2018 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: IPD, framework, network meta-analysis, treatment-covariate interaction
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Inst of Clinical Trials and Methodology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Inst of Clinical Trials and Methodology > MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10024520
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