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Factors predicting missing instruments in three cancer randomized clinical trials

Quality of Life Research
Michael J. Palmer, Harriet Richardson, Dongsheng Tu, Michael Brundage
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11136-021-02818-0.

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Missing patient-reported outcome (PRO) data can seriously threaten the validity of randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Identifying which factors predict missing instruments may help researchers develop strategies to prevent it from happening. This study examined the association of factors with time to the first missing instrument after randomization in three cooperative group RCTs.


We performed descriptive analyses and Cox proportional hazards regressions for three RCTs selected from the Canadian Cancer Trials Group: MA17 (breast cancer), PR7 (prostate cancer), and LY12 (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). The outcome was the time from randomization to the first missing instrument. Variables for 15 factors were used as covariates based on availability and previously-reported putative associations with missing PRO data.


Nine percent of 1352 subjects on MA17, 37% of 923 subjects on PR7, and 59% of 477 subjects on LY12 had a missing instrument. Twenty-five percent of subjects on MA17 had first missing instrument within 4.6 years. The median time to first missing instrument was: not observed for MA17, 7.3 years for PR7, 0.12 years for LY12. Cox regression revealed statistically significant independent associations with outcome for only five factors: baseline age (PR7) and level of well-being (LY12), and centre level of activity (LY12), presence of post-graduate residency training program (MA17, PR7), and centre geographic location (PR7, LY12).


Many factors reported to have association with missing instruments do not seem to predict time to the first missing instrument after randomization in RCTs. Context is important in understanding the few that may.

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