Objective: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) clinical trials based on single end points only partially capture the full treatment effect when both function and mortality are affected, and may falsely dismiss efficacious drugs as futile. We aimed to investigate the statistical properties of several strategies for the simultaneous analysis of function and mortality in ALS clinical trials. Methods: Based on the Pooled Resource Open-Access ALS Clinical Trials (PRO-ACT) database, we simulated longitudinal patterns of functional decline, defined by the revised amyotrophic lateral sclerosis functional rating scale (ALSFRS-R) and conditional survival time. Different treatment scenarios with varying effect sizes were simulated with follow-up ranging from 12 to 18 months. We considered the following analytical strategies: 1) Cox model; 2) linear mixed effects (LME) model; 3) omnibus test based on Cox and LME models; 4) composite time-to-6-point decrease or death; 5) combined assessment of function and survival (CAFS); and 6) test based on joint modeling framework. For each analytical strategy, we calculated the empirical power and sample size. Results: Both Cox and LME models have increased false-negative rates when treatment exclusively affects either function or survival. The joint model has superior power compared to other strategies. The composite end point increases false-negative rates among all treatment scenarios. To detect a 15% reduction in ALSFRS-R decline and 34% decline in hazard with 80% power after 18 months, the Cox model requires 524 patients, the LME model 794 patients, the omnibus test 526 patients, the composite end point 1,274 patients, the CAFS 576 patients and the joint model 464 patients. Conclusion: Joint models have superior statistical power to analyze simultaneous effects on survival and function and may circumvent pitfalls encountered by other end points. Optimizing trial end points is essential, as selecting suboptimal outcomes may disguise important treatment clues.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, CAFS, Clinical trials, Joint models
dx.doi.org/10.2147/CLEP.S153196, hdl.handle.net/1765/107301
Clinical Epidemiology
This work was funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme; grant id fp7/603160 - Advances in Small Trials dEsign for Regulatory Innovation and eXcellence (ASTERIX)
Department of Biostatistics

Van Eijk, R.P.A, Eijkemans, M.J.C. (Marinus J. C.), Rizopoulos, D, van den Berg, L.H, & Nikolakopoulos, S. (Stavros). (2018). Comparing methods to combine functional loss and mortality in clinical trials for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Clinical Epidemiology, 10, 333–341. doi:10.2147/CLEP.S153196