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Adjusting for time-varying treatment switches in randomized clinical trials: the danger of extrapolation and how to avoid it

by   Hege Michiels, et al.

When choosing estimands and estimators in randomized clinical trials, caution is warranted as intercurrent events, such as - due to patients who switch treatment after disease progression, are often extreme. Statistical analyses may then easily lure one into making large implicit extrapolations, which often go unnoticed. We will illustrate this problem of implicit extrapolations using a real oncology case study, with a right-censored time-to-event endpoint, in which patients can cross over from the control to the experimental treatment after disease progression, for ethical reasons. We resolve this by developing an estimator for the survival risk ratio contrasting the survival probabilities at each time t if all patients would take experimental treatment with the survival probabilities at those times t if all patients would take control treatment up to time t, using randomization as an instrumental variable to avoid reliance on no unmeasured confounders assumptions. This doubly robust estimator can handle time-varying treatment switches and right-censored survival times. Insight into the rationale behind the estimator is provided and the approach is demonstrated by re-analyzing the oncology trial.


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