The Extrapolation Performance of Survival Models for Data With a Cure Fraction: A Simulation Study [Editor's Choice]



Curative treatments can result in complex hazard functions. The use of standard survival models may result in poor extrapolations. Several models for data which may have a cure fraction are available, but comparisons of their extrapolation performance are lacking. A simulation study was performed to assess the performance of models with and without a cure fraction when fit to data with a cure fraction.


Data were simulated from a Weibull cure model, with 9 scenarios corresponding to different lengths of follow-up and sample sizes. Cure and noncure versions of standard parametric, Royston-Parmar, and dynamic survival models were considered along with noncure fractional polynomial and generalized additive models. The mean-squared error and bias in estimates of the hazard function were estimated.


With the shortest follow-up, none of the cure models provided good extrapolations. Performance improved with increasing follow-up, except for the misspecified standard parametric cure model (lognormal). The performance of the flexible cure models was similar to that of the correctly specified cure model. Accurate estimates of the cured fraction were not necessary for accurate hazard estimates. Models without a cure fraction provided markedly worse extrapolations.


For curative treatments, failure to model the cured fraction can lead to very poor extrapolations. Cure models provide improved extrapolations, but with immature data there may be insufficient evidence to choose between cure and noncure models, emphasizing the importance of clinical knowledge for model choice. Dynamic cure fraction models were robust to model misspecification, but standard parametric cure models were not.


Benjamin Kearns Matt D. Stevenson Kostas Triantafyllopoulos Andrea Manca

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