Survival-Inferred Fragility Index of Phase 3 Clinical Trials Evaluating Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

Tomer Meirson, David Bomze, Nethanel Asher, Omar Hasan Ali, Lukas Flatz, Daniel Azoulay, Gal Markel, Tomer Meirson

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18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Importance: In science and medical research, extreme and dichotomous conclusions may be drawn based on whether the P value falls above or below the threshold. The fragility index (ie, the minimum number of changes from nonevents to events resulting in loss of statistical significance) captures the vulnerability of statistics in trials with binary outcomes. There are a growing number of clinical trials of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs), as well as expanding eligibility for patients to receive them. The robustness of survival outcomes in randomized clinical trials (RCTs) should be evaluated using the fragility index extended to time-to-event data. Objective: To calculate the fragility of survival data in RCTs evaluating ICIs. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this cross-sectional study, data on phase 3 prospective RCTs investigating ICIs included in PubMed from inception until January 1, 2020, were extracted. Two- or three-group studies reporting results for overall survival were eligible for the survival-inferred fragility index (SIFI) calculation, which is the minimum number of reassignments of the best survivors from the interventional group to the control group resulting in loss of significance (defined as P <.05 by log-rank test). For nonsignificant results, a negative SIFI was calculated by reversing the direction of reassignment (from the control group to the interventional group). Main Outcomes and Measures: Survival-inferred fragility index. Results: A total of 45 phase 3 prospective RCTs (4 of which had 3 groups, for a total of 49 groups) were identified, of which 6 (13%) investigated anti-cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) agents, 25 (56%) investigated anti-programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) agents, 12 (27%) investigated anti-programmed cell death 1 ligand 1 agents, and 3 (7%) investigated the combination of anti-CTLA-4 and anti-PD-1 agents. The median SIFI was 5 (interquartile range, -4 to 12) for the intention-to-treat analysis; for these trials, the SIFI was 1% or less of the total sample size in 17 of 49 populations (35%). In 25 of the 49 intention-to-treat populations (51%), the SIFI was less than the number of censored patients in the intervention group shortly after randomization (defined as <5% of the follow-up time). Conclusions and Relevance: This study suggests that many phase 3 RCTs evaluating ICI therapies have a low SIFI for overall survival, resulting in uncertainty regarding their potential clinical benefit. Although not a definitive solution for the problems arising from dichotomization, SIFI provides an additional means of assessing and communicating the strength of statistical conclusions..

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2017675
JournalJAMA network open
Volume3
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020

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