Back to Journals » Cancer Management and Research » Volume 6

Interpreting overall survival results when progression-free survival benefits exist in today's oncology landscape: a metastatic renal cell carcinoma case study

Authors Tang Y, Bycott P, Åkerborg Ö, Jönsson L, Negrier S, Chen C

Received 5 May 2014

Accepted for publication 22 June 2014

Published 22 September 2014 Volume 2014:6 Pages 365—371


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Yiyun Tang,1 Paul Bycott,1 Örjan Åkerborg,2 Linus Jönsson,2 Sylvie Negrier,3 Connie Chen4

1Pfizer Global Research and Development, La Jolla, CA, USA; 2OptumInsight, Stockholm, Sweden; 3Medical Oncology Department, University of Lyon, Lyon, France; 4Pfizer Global Outcomes Research, New York, NY, USA

Background: The debate surrounding the acceptance of progression-free survival (PFS) as an intermediate endpoint to overall survival (OS) has grown in recent years, due to the challenges in demonstrating an OS benefit within clinical trials today. PFS is generally a good predictor of OS for cases where survival post-progression (SPP) is short, and less so when SPP is long. SPP depends on multiple factors, including residual effect from experimental treatment and effect from crossover or other subsequent therapies, posing unique challenges into the translation of PFS benefit into OS.
Methods: The objective of this analysis was to conduct simulations investigating how increasing SPP impacts PFS translation to OS, utilizing data from the AXIS (axitinib versus sorafenib in advanced metastatic renal cell carcinoma) trial. The underlying assumption was a treatment benefit in PFS (the PFS distribution parameters were chosen to be equal to median PFS in the AXIS trial) but no treatment effect on SPP, implying that PFS improvement is directly reflected in OS improvement.
Results: The probability of a statistically significant difference between arms for OS decreased from 54.7% to 6.1% when median SPP was increased from one to 20 months. The probability of the hazard ratio of OS being ≥0.9 was similarly increased from 24.3% to 72.6%, even though the hazard ratio for PFS was 0.69.
Conclusion: The present study shows that when simulated SPP is added to trial PFS data, the existing PFS benefit is diluted. Knowing that the AXIS treatment arms are well balanced with respect to post-trial treatments, we conclude that the PFS to OS benefit translation is primarily obscured by random variability largely unrelated to the true outcomes. The implications for drug development are not insignificant, as there would be a need to include more patients in studies or utilize a longer follow-up time to overcome the SPP variability issue.

Keywords: overall survival, progression-free survival, endpoints, clinical trials, oncology, retrospective

Creative Commons License This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.

Download Article [PDF]  View Full Text [HTML][Machine readable]