Estimating individualized treatment effects using an individual participant data meta-analysis

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2024 Mar 25;24(1):74. doi: 10.1186/s12874-024-02202-9.


Background: One key aspect of personalized medicine is to identify individuals who benefit from an intervention. Some approaches have been developed to estimate individualized treatment effects (ITE) with a single randomized control trial (RCT) or observational data, but they are often underpowered for the ITE estimation. Using individual participant data meta-analyses (IPD-MA) might solve this problem. Few studies have investigated how to develop risk prediction models with IPD-MA, and it remains unclear how to combine those methods with approaches used for ITE estimation. In this article, we compared different approaches using both simulated and real data with binary and time-to-event outcomes to estimate the individualized treatment effects from an IPD-MA in a one-stage approach.

Methods: We compared five one-stage models: naive model (NA), random intercept (RI), stratified intercept (SI), rank-1 (R1), and fully stratified (FS), built with two different strategies, the S-learner and the T-learner constructed with a Monte Carlo simulation study in which we explored different scenarios with a binary or a time-to-event outcome. To evaluate the performance of the models, we used the c-statistic for benefit, the calibration of predictions, and the mean squared error. The different models were also used on the INDANA IPD-MA, comparing an anti-hypertensive treatment to no treatment or placebo ( N = 40 237 , 836 events).

Results: Simulation results showed that using the S-learner led to better ITE estimation performances for both binary and time-to-event outcomes. None of the risk models stand out and had significantly better results. For the INDANA dataset with a binary outcome, the naive and the random intercept models had the best performances.

Conclusions: For the choice of the strategy, using interactions with treatment (the S-learner) is preferable. For the choice of the method, no approach is better than the other.

Keywords: Individual patient data; Individualized treatment effects; Meta-analysis; Personalized medicine.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic