Estimating progression‐free survival in paediatric brain tumour patients when some progression statuses are unknown
Summary. In oncology, progression‐free survival time, which is defined as the minimum of the times to disease progression or death, often is used to characterize treatment and covariate effects. We are motivated by the desire to estimate the progression time distribution on the basis of data from 780 paediatric patients with choroid plexus tumours, which are a rare brain cancer where disease progression always precedes death. In retrospective data on 674 patients, the times to death or censoring were recorded but progression times were missing. In a prospective study of 106 patients, both times were recorded but there were only 20 non‐censored progression times and 10 non‐censored survival times. Consequently, estimating the progression time distribution is complicated by the problems that, for most of the patients, either the survival time is known but the progression time is not known, or the survival time is right censored and it is not known whether the patient's disease progressed before censoring. For data with these missingness structures, we formulate a family of Bayesian parametric likelihoods and present methods for estimating the progression time distribution. The underlying idea is that estimating the association between the time to progression and subsequent survival time from patients having complete data provides a basis for utilizing covariates and partial event time data of other patients to infer their missing progression times. We illustrate the methodology by analysing the brain tumour data, and we also present a simulation study.
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