How strongly is progression-free survival (PFS) associated with health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in studies of cancer treatments?
This systematic review and quantitative analysis of 52 articles reporting on 38 randomized clinical cancer trials did not find a significant association between PFS and HRQoL.
These findings raise questions about the assumption that interventions prolonging PFS also improve HRQoL in patients with cancer and suggest that HRQoL should be measured directly and accurately, with adequate follow-up time, in future studies.
Progression-free survival (PFS) has become a commonly used outcome to assess the efficacy of new cancer drugs. However, it is not clear if delay in progression leads to improved quality of life with or without overall survival benefit.
To evaluate the association between PFS and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in oncology through a systematic review and quantitative analysis of published randomized clinical trials. Eligible trials addressed oral, intravenous, intraperitoneal, or intrapleural chemotherapy or biological treatments, and reported PFS or health-related quality of life.
For this systematic review and quantitative analysis of randomized clinical trials of patients with cancer, we searched Medline, Embase, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from January 1, 2000, through May 4, 2016.
Paired reviewers independently screened citations, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias of included studies.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
We examined the association of difference in median PFS duration (in months) between treatment groups with difference in global, physical, and emotional HRQoL scores between groups (standardized to a range of 0-100, with higher scores representing better HRQoL) using weighted simple regressions.
Main Outcome and Measure
The association between PFS duration and HRQoL.
Of 35 960 records screened, 52 articles reporting on 38 randomized clinical trials involving 13 979 patients across 12 cancer types using 6 different HRQoL instruments were included. The mean (SD) difference in median PFS between the intervention and the control arms was 1.91 (3.35) months. The mean (SD) differences in change of HRQoL adjusted to per-month values were −0.39 (3.59) for the global domain, 0.26 (5.56) for the physical domain, and 1.08 (3.49) for the emotional domain. The slope of the association between the difference in median PFS and the difference in change for global HRQoL (n = 30 trials) was 0.12 (95% CI, −0.27 to 0.52); for physical HRQoL (n = 20 trials) it was −0.20 (95% CI, −0.62 to 0.23); and for emotional HRQoL (n = 13 trials) it was 0.78 (95% CI, −0.05 to 1.60).
Conclusions and Relevance
We failed to find a significant association between PFS and HRQoL in cancer clinical trials. These findings raise questions regarding the assumption that interventions prolonging PFS also improve HRQoL in patients with cancer. Therefore, to ensure that patients are truly obtaining important benefit from cancer therapies, clinical trial investigators should measure HRQoL directly and accurately, ensuring adequate duration and follow-up.
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Kovic B, Jin X, Kennedy SA, et al. Evaluating Progression-Free Survival as a Surrogate Outcome for Health-Related Quality of Life in Oncology: A Systematic Review and Quantitative Analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(12):1586–1596. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4710
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