Background: In recent years there is increasing interest in modeling the effect of early longitudinal biomarker data on future time-to-event or other outcomes. Sometimes investigators are also interested in knowing whether the variability of biomarkers is independently predictive of clinical outcomes. This question in most applications is addressed via a two-stage approach where summary statistics such as variance are calculated in the first stage and then used in models as covariates to predict clinical outcome in the second stage. The objective of this study is to compare the relative performance of various methods in estimating the effect of biomarker variability. Methods: A joint model and 4 different two-stage approaches (naïve, landmark analysis, time-dependent Cox model, and regression calibration) were illustrated using data from a large multi-center randomized phase III trial, the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study (OHTS), regarding the association between the variability of intraocular pressure (IOP) and the development of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). The model performance was also evaluated in terms of bias using simulated data from the joint model of longitudinal IOP and time to POAG. The parameters for simulation were chosen after OHTS data, and the association between longitudinal and survival data was introduced via underlying, unobserved, and error-free parameters including subject-specific variance. Results: In the OHTS data, joint modeling and two-stage methods reached consistent conclusion that IOP variability showed no significant association with the risk of POAG. In the simulated data with no association between IOP variability and time-to-POAG, all the two-stage methods (except the naïve approach) provided a reliable estimation. When a moderate effect of IOP variability on POAG was imposed, all the two-stage methods underestimated the true association as compared with the joint modeling while the model-based two-stage method (regression calibration) resulted in the least bias. Conclusion: Regression calibration and joint modelling are the preferred methods in assessing the effect of biomarker variability. Two-stage methods with sample-based measures should be used with caution unless there exists a relatively long series of longitudinal measurements and/or strong effect size (NCT00000125).

Original languageEnglish
Article number201
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Joint model
  • Landmark analysis
  • Longitudinal data
  • Patient-specific variance
  • Survival data


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparing statistical methods in assessing the prognostic effect of biomarker variability on time-to-event clinical outcomes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this