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Designing group sequential clinical trials when a delayed effect is anticipated: A practical guidance

by   Dominic Magirr, et al.

A common feature of many recent trials evaluating the effects of immunotherapy on survival is that non-proportional hazards can be anticipated at the design stage. This raises the possibility to use a statistical method tailored towards testing the purported long-term benefit, rather than applying the more standard log-rank test and/or Cox model. Many such proposals have been made in recent years, but there remains a lack of practical guidance on implementation, particularly in the context of group-sequential designs. In this article, we aim to fill this gap. We discuss how the POPLAR trial, which compared immunotherapy versus chemotherapy in non-small-cell lung cancer, might have been re-designed to be more robust to the presence of a delayed effect. We then provide step-by-step instructions on how to analyse a hypothetical realisation of the trial, based on this new design. Basic theory on weighted log-rank tests and group-sequential methods is covered, and an accompanying R package (including vignette) is provided.


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