The Biomarker-Surrogacy Evaluation Schema: a review of the biomarker-surrogate literature and a proposal for a criterion-based, quantitative, multidimensional hierarchical levels of evidence schema for evaluating the status of biomarkers as surrogate endpoints

Stat Methods Med Res. 2008 Jun;17(3):303-40. doi: 10.1177/0962280207082719. Epub 2007 Oct 9.


There are clear advantages to using biomarkers and surrogate endpoints, but concerns about clinical and statistical validity and systematic methods to evaluate these aspects hinder their efficient application. Section 2 is a systematic, historical review of the biomarker-surrogate endpoint literature with special reference to the nomenclature, the systems of classification and statistical methods developed for their evaluation. In Section 3 an explicit, criterion-based, quantitative, multidimensional hierarchical levels of evidence schema - Biomarker-Surrogacy Evaluation Schema - is proposed to evaluate and co-ordinate the multiple dimensions (biological, epidemiological, statistical, clinical trial and risk-benefit evidence) of the biomarker clinical endpoint relationships. The schema systematically evaluates and ranks the surrogacy status of biomarkers and surrogate endpoints using defined levels of evidence. The schema incorporates the three independent domains: Study Design, Target Outcome and Statistical Evaluation. Each domain has items ranked from zero to five. An additional category called Penalties incorporates additional considerations of biological plausibility, risk-benefit and generalizability. The total score (0-15) determines the level of evidence, with Level 1 the strongest and Level 5 the weakest. The term ;surrogate' is restricted to markers attaining Levels 1 or 2 only. Surrogacy status of markers can then be directly compared within and across different areas of medicine to guide individual, trial-based or drug-development decisions. This schema would facilitate communication between clinical, researcher, regulatory, industry and consumer participants necessary for evaluation of the biomarker-surrogate-clinical endpoint relationship in their different settings.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Biometry / methods*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Biomarkers