Incorporating individual historical controls and aggregate treatment effect estimates into a Bayesian survival trial: a simulation study

Abstract : BACKGROUND: Performing well-powered randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of new treatments for rare diseases is often infeasible. However, with the increasing availability of historical data, incorporating existing information into trials with small sample sizes is appealing in order to increase the power. Bayesian approaches enable one to incorporate historical data into a trial's analysis through a prior distribution. METHODS: Motivated by a RCT intended to evaluate the impact on event-free survival of mifamurtide in patients with osteosarcoma, we performed a simulation study to evaluate the impact on trial operating characteristics of incorporating historical individual control data and aggregate treatment effect estimates. We used power priors derived from historical individual control data for baseline parameters of Weibull and piecewise exponential models, while we used a mixture prior to summarise aggregate information obtained on the relative treatment effect. The impact of prior-data conflicts, both with respect to the parameters and survival models, was evaluated for a set of pre-specified weights assigned to the historical information in the prior distributions. RESULTS: The operating characteristics varied according to the weights assigned to each source of historical information, the variance of the informative and vague component of the mixture prior and the level of commensurability between the historical and new data. When historical and new controls follow different survival distributions, we did not observe any advantage of choosing a piecewise exponential model compared to a Weibull model for the new trial analysis. However, we think that it remains appealing given the uncertainty that will often surround the shape of the survival distribution of the new data. CONCLUSION: In the setting of Sarcome-13 trial, and other similar studies in rare diseases, the gains in power and accuracy made possible by incorporating different types of historical information commensurate with the new trial data have to be balanced against the risk of biased estimates and a possible loss in power if data are not commensurate. The weights allocated to the historical data have to be carefully chosen based on this trade-off. Further simulation studies investigating methods for incorporating historical data are required to generalise the findings.
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Caroline Brard, Lisa Hampson, Nathalie Gaspar, Marie-Cécile Le Deley, Gwénaël Le Teuff. Incorporating individual historical controls and aggregate treatment effect estimates into a Bayesian survival trial: a simulation study. BMC Medical Research Methodology, BioMed Central, 2019, 19 (1), pp.85. ⟨10.1186/s12874-019-0714-z⟩. ⟨inserm-02308658⟩

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