Methods developed to estimate intervention effects in external target populations assume that all important effect measure modifiers have been identified and appropriately modeled. Propensity score–based diagnostics can be used to assess the plausibility of these assumptions for weighting methods.
We demonstrate the use of these diagnostics when assessing the transportability of treatment effects from the standard of care for metastatic colorectal cancer control arm in a phase III trial (HORIZON III) to a target population of 1,942 Medicare beneficiaries age 65+ years.
In an unadjusted comparison, control arm participants had lower mortality compared with target population patients treated with the standard of care therapy (trial vs. target hazard ratio [HR] = 0.72, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.58, 0.89). Applying inverse odds of sampling weights attenuated the trial versus target HR (weighted HR = 0.96, 95% CI = 0.73, 1.26). However, whether unadjusted or weighted, hazards did not appear proportional. At 6 months of follow-up, mortality was lower in the weighted trial population than the target population (weighted trial vs. target risk difference [RD] = −0.07, 95% CI = −0.13, −0.01), but not at 12 months (weighted RD = 0.00, 95% CI = −0.09, 0.09).
These diagnostics suggest that direct transport of treatment effects from HORIZON III to the Medicare population is not valid. However, the proposed sampling model might allow valid transport of the treatment effects on longer-term mortality from HORIZON III to the Medicare population treated in clinical practice. See video abstract at, http://links.lww.com/EDE/B435.