Pharmaceutical Statistics

A comparison of subgroup identification methods in clinical drug development: Simulation study and regulatory considerations

Journal Article

With advancement of technologies such as genomic sequencing, predictive biomarkers have become a useful tool for the development of personalized medicine. Predictive biomarkers can be used to select subsets of patients, which are most likely to benefit from a treatment. A number of approaches for subgroup identification were proposed over the last years. Although overviews of subgroup identification methods are available, systematic comparisons of their performance in simulation studies are rare. Interaction trees (IT), model‐based recursive partitioning, subgroup identification based on differential effect, simultaneous threshold interaction modeling algorithm (STIMA), and adaptive refinement by directed peeling were proposed for subgroup identification. We compared these methods in a simulation study using a structured approach. In order to identify a target population for subsequent trials, a selection of the identified subgroups is needed. Therefore, we propose a subgroup criterion leading to a target subgroup consisting of the identified subgroups with an estimated treatment difference no less than a pre‐specified threshold. In our simulation study, we evaluated these methods by considering measures for binary classification, like sensitivity and specificity. In settings with large effects or huge sample sizes, most methods perform well. For more realistic settings in drug development involving data from a single trial only, however, none of the methods seems suitable for selecting a target population. Using the subgroup criterion as alternative to the proposed pruning procedures, STIMA and IT can improve their performance in some settings. The methods and the subgroup criterion are illustrated by an application in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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