UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Autoregressive transitional ordinal model to test for treatment effect in neurological trials with complex endpoints Tanadini, Lorenzo G; Steeves, John D; Curt, Armin; Hothorn, Torsten


Background: A number of potential therapeutic approaches for neurological disorders have failed to provide convincing evidence of efficacy, prompting pharmaceutical and health companies to discontinue their involvement in drug development. Limitations in the statistical analysis of complex endpoints have very likely had a negative impact on the translational process. Methods: We propose a transitional ordinal model with an autoregressive component to overcome previous limitations in the analysis of Upper Extremity Motor Scores, a relevant endpoint in the field of Spinal Cord Injury. Statistical power and clinical interpretation of estimated treatment effects of the proposed model were compared to routinely employed approaches in a large simulation study of two-arm randomized clinical trials. A revisitation of a key historical trial provides further comparison between the different analysis approaches. Results: The proposed model outperformed all other approaches in virtually all simulation settings, achieving on average 14 % higher statistical power than the respective second-best performing approach (range: -1 %, +34 %). Only the transitional model allows treatment effect estimates to be interpreted as conditional odds ratios, providing clear interpretation and visualization. Conclusion: The proposed model takes into account the complex ordinal nature of the endpoint under investigation and explicitly accounts for relevant prognostic factors such as lesion level and baseline information. Superior statistical power, combined with clear clinical interpretation of estimated treatment effects and widespread availability in commercial software, are strong arguments for clinicians and trial scientists to adopt, and further extend, the proposed approach.

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