Relationship between Progression-free Survival and Overall Survival in Randomized Clinical Trials of Targeted and Biologic Agents in Oncology

2019 Jun 9;10(16):3717-3727

Hess LM, Brnabic A, Mason O, Lee P, Barker S.


Introduction: With a gap in a full understanding of the mechanisms by which survival is extended for patients with cancer who are treated with novel biologic and targeted agents, there is the risk that discordant progression-free and overall survival outcomes are observed due to poor clinical trial design or biases in the interpretation of data. This study was designed to examine the role of study quality and design on the outcomes observed with biologic and targeted agents. Methods: A review of studies in supplemented with a literature review in OVID Medline was conducted to identify all randomized trials of a biologic/targeted agent versus a non-biologic/targeted comparator in oncology that report both median overall and progression-free survival outcomes. Details of the study, design, population, drugs, and outcomes were extracted. Study quality was evaluated using the PEDro scale. Data were summarized using SPSS Results: A total of 192 unique studies of 206 pairwise comparisons between a biologic/targeted and comparator were identified. The average absolute magnitude of post-progression survival (difference between OS and PFS) was 9.7 months for biologic/targeted therapy and 9.8 for the comparator. A total of 64 comparisons (31.1%) showed an increase in OS and decrease in PFS, or vice versa, and 25 (12.1%) showed a magnitude of more than 4 months difference between the delta of OS and delta of PFS between the biologic/targeted and comparator arms. Average study quality was high overall (7.7/10), and was comparable for studies with directional differences (7.2/10) as well as for those with the greatest magnitude in post-progression survival (7.4/10). Conclusion: This review and analysis specifically examined small PFS benefit with large OS benefit as well as small OS benefit with large PFS benefit, including differences in direction of PFS and OS outcomes. No evidence was identified that these are the result of poor study design, but may rather be due to the mechanism of action, specific disease, and population under study. Further work is needed to understand the mechanism of action of novel biologic/targeted agents to better understand their interaction with the tumor microenvironment.