Surrogate Measures and Consistent Surrogates

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Abstract

Summary

Surrogates which allow one to predict the effect of the treatment on the outcome of interest from the effect of the treatment on the surrogate are of importance when it is difficult or expensive to measure the primary outcome. Unfortunately, the use of such surrogates can give rise to paradoxical situations in which the effect of the treatment on the surrogate is positive, the surrogate and outcome are strongly positively correlated, but the effect of the treatment on the outcome is negative, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “surrogate paradox.” New results are given for consistent surrogates that extend the existing literature on sufficient conditions that ensure the surrogate paradox is not manifest. Specifically, it is shown that for the surrogate paradox to be manifest it must be the case that either there is (i) a direct effect of treatment on the outcome not through the surrogate and in the opposite direction as that through the surrogate or (ii) confounding for the effect of the surrogate on the outcome, or (iii) a lack of transitivity so that treatment does not positively affect the surrogate for all the same individuals for whom the surrogate positively affects the outcome. The conditions for consistent surrogates and the results of the article are important because they allow investigators to predict the direction of the effect of the treatment on the outcome simply from the direction of the effect of the treatment on the surrogate. These results on consistent surrogates are then related to the four approaches to surrogate outcomes described by Joffe and Greene (2009, Biometrics 65, 530–538) to assess whether the standard criteria used by these approaches to assess whether a surrogate is “good” suffice to avoid the surrogate paradox.

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