Subgroup identification in individual patient data meta-analysis using model-based recursive partitioning

09/22/2020
by   Cynthia Huber, et al.
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Model-based recursive partitioning (MOB) can be used to identify subgroups with differing treatment effects. The detection rate of treatment-by-covariate interactions and the accuracy of identified subgroups using MOB depend strongly on the sample size. Using data from multiple randomized controlled clinical trials can overcome the problem of too small samples. However, naively pooling data from multiple trials may result in the identification of spurious subgroups as differences in study design, subject selection and other sources of between-trial heterogeneity are ignored. In order to account for between-trial heterogeneity in individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis random-effect models are frequently used. Commonly, heterogeneity in the treatment effect is modelled using random effects whereas heterogeneity in the baseline risks is modelled by either fixed effects or random effects. In this article, we propose metaMOB, a procedure using the generalized mixed-effects model tree (GLMM tree) algorithm for subgroup identification in IPD meta-analysis. Although the application of metaMOB is potentially wider, e.g. randomized experiments with participants in social sciences or preclinical experiments in life sciences, we focus on randomized controlled clinical trials. In a simulation study, metaMOB outperformed GLMM trees assuming a random intercept only and model-based recursive partitioning (MOB), whose algorithm is the basis for GLMM trees, with respect to the false discovery rates, accuracy of identified subgroups and accuracy of estimated treatment effect. The most robust and therefore most promising method is metaMOB with fixed effects for modelling the between-trial heterogeneity in the baseline risks.

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