BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:
Optimal treatment decisions in children require sufficient evidence on the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals in pediatric patients. However, there is concern that not enough trials are conducted in children and that pediatric trials differ from those performed in adults. Our objective was to measure the prevalence of pediatric studies among clinical drug trials and compare trial characteristics and quality indicators between pediatric and adult drug trials.
For conditions representing a high burden of pediatric disease, we identified all drug trials registered in ClinicalTrials.gov with start dates between 2006 and 2011 and tracked the resulting publications. We measured the proportion of pediatric trials and subjects for each condition and compared pediatric and adult trial characteristics and quality indicators.
For the conditions selected, 59.9% of the disease burden was attributable to children, but only 12.0% (292/2440) of trials were pediatric (P < .001). Among pediatric trials, 58.6% were conducted without industry funding compared with 35.0% of adult trials (P < .001).
Fewer pediatric compared with adult randomized trials examined safety outcomes (10.1% vs 16.9%, P = .008). Pediatric randomized trials were slightly more likely to be appropriately registered before study start (46.9% vs 39.3%, P = .04) and had a modestly higher probability of publication in the examined time frame (32.8% vs 23.2%, P = .04).
There is substantial discrepancy between pediatric burden of disease and the amount of clinical trial research devoted to pediatric populations. This may be related in part to trial funding, with pediatric trials relying primarily on government and nonprofit organizations.
clinical trials; evidence-based medicine; pediatrics; medication use; research subjects
MicroRNA (miR) expression may have prognostic value for many types of cancers. However, the miR literature comprises many small studies. We systematically reviewed and synthesized the evidence.
Using MEDLINE (last update December 2010), we identified English language studies that examined associations between miRs and cancer prognosis using tumor specimens for more than 10 patients during classifier development. We included studies that assessed a major clinical outcome (nodal disease, disease progression, response to therapy, metastasis, recurrence, or overall survival) in an agnostic fashion using either polymerase chain reaction or hybridized oligonucleotide microarrays.
Forty-six articles presenting results on 43 studies pertaining to 20 different types of malignancy were eligible for inclusion in this review. The median study size was 65 patients (interquartile range [IQR] = 34–129), the median number of miRs assayed was 328 (IQR = 250–470), and overall survival or recurrence were the most commonly measured outcomes (30 and 19 studies, respectively). External validation was performed in 21 studies, 20 of which reported at least one nominally statistically significant result for a miR classifier. The median hazard ratio for poor outcome in externally validated studies was 2.52 (IQR = 2.26–5.40). For all classifier miRs in studies that evaluated overall survival across diverse malignancies, the miRs most frequently associated with poor outcome after accounting for differences in miR assessment due to platform type were let-7 (decreased expression in patients with cancer) and miR 21 (increased expression).
MiR classifiers show promising prognostic associations with major cancer outcomes and specific miRs are consistently identified across diverse studies and platforms. These types of classifiers require careful external validation in large groups of cancer patients that have adequate protection from bias. –
Fifteen meta-analyses have been published between 1995 and 2011 to evaluate the efficacy/effectiveness and harms of diverse influenza vaccines—seasonal, H5N1 and 2009(H1N1) —in various age-classes (healthy children, adults or elderly). These meta-analyses have often adopted different analyses and study selection criteria. Because it is difficult to have a clear picture of vaccine benefits and harms examining single systematic reviews, we compiled the main findings and evaluated which could be the most reasonable explanations for some differences in findings (or their interpretation) across previously published meta-analyses. For each age group, we performed analyses that included all trials that had been included in at least one relevant meta-analysis, also exploring whether effect sizes changed over time. Although we identified several discrepancies among the meta-analyses on seasonal vaccines for children and elderly, overall most seasonal influenza vaccines showed statistically significant efficacy/effectiveness, which was acceptable or high for laboratory-confirmed cases and of modest magnitude for clinically-confirmed cases. The available evidence on parenteral inactivated vaccines for children aged < 2 y remains scarce. Pre-pandemic “avian” H5N1 and pandemic 2009 (H1N1) vaccines can achieve satisfactory immunogenicity, but no meta-analysis has addressed H1N1 vaccination impact on clinical outcomes. Data on harms are overall reassuring, but their value is diminished by inconsistent reporting.
Meta-analysis; influenza vaccine; vaccine efficacy; vaccine immunogenicity; vaccine safety
We studied the independent and joint effects of the genes encoding alpha-synuclein (SNCA) and microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT) in Parkinson's disease (PD) as part of a large meta-analysis of individual data from case-control studies participating in the Genetic Epidemiology of Parkinson's Disease (GEO-PD) consortium.
Participants of Caucasian ancestry were genotyped for a total of four SNCA (rs2583988, rs181489, rs356219, rs11931074) and two MAPT (rs1052553, rs242557) SNPs. Individual and joint effects of SNCA and MAPT SNPs were investigated using fixed- and random-effects logistic regression models. Interactions were studied both on a multiplicative and an additive scale, and using a case-control and case-only approach.
Fifteen GEO-PD sites contributed a total of 5302 cases and 4161 controls. All four SNCA SNPs and the MAPT H1-haplotype defining SNP (rs1052553) displayed a highly significant marginal association with PD at the significance level adjusted for multiple comparisons. For SNCA, the strongest associations were observed for SNPs located at the 3′ end of the gene. There was no evidence of statistical interaction between any of the four SNCA SNPs and rs1052553 or rs242557, neither on the multiplicative nor on the additive scale.
This study confirms the association between PD and both SNCA SNPs and the H1 MAPT haplotype. It shows, based on a variety of approaches, that the joint action of variants in these two loci is consistent with independent effects of the genes without additional interacting effects.
Parkinson disease; SNCA; MAPT; genetics; interaction; case-control
Proposed molecular classifiers may be overfit to idiosyncrasies of noisy genomic and proteomic data. Cross-validation methods are often used to obtain estimates of classification accuracy, but both simulations and case studies suggest that, when inappropriate methods are used, bias may ensue. Bias can be bypassed and generalizability can be tested by external (independent) validation. We evaluated 35 studies that have reported on external validation of a molecular classifier. We extracted information on study design and methodological features, and compared the performance of molecular classifiers in internal cross-validation versus external validation for 28 studies where both had been performed. We demonstrate that the majority of studies pursued cross-validation practices that are likely to overestimate classifier performance. Most studies were markedly underpowered to detect a 20% decrease in sensitivity or specificity between internal cross-validation and external validation [median power was 36% (IQR, 21–61%) and 29% (IQR, 15–65%), respectively]. The median reported classification performance for sensitivity and specificity was 94% and 98%, respectively, in cross-validation and 88% and 81% for independent validation. The relative diagnostic odds ratio was 3.26 (95% CI 2.04–5.21) for cross-validation versus independent validation. Finally, we reviewed all studies (n = 758) which cited those in our study sample, and identified only one instance of additional subsequent independent validation of these classifiers. In conclusion, these results document that many cross-validation practices employed in the literature are potentially biased and genuine progress in this field will require adoption of routine external validation of molecular classifiers, preferably in much larger studies than in current practice.
predictive medicine; genes; gene expression; proteomics
The rapid and continuing progress in gene discovery for complex diseases is fuelling interest in the potential application of genetic risk models for clinical and public health practice.The number of studies assessing the predictive ability is steadily increasing, but they vary widely in completeness of reporting and apparent quality.Transparent reporting of the strengths and weaknesses of these studies is important to facilitate the accumulation of evidence on genetic risk prediction.A multidisciplinary workshop sponsored by the Human Genome Epidemiology Network developed a checklist of 25 items recommended for strengthening the reporting of Genetic RIsk Prediction Studies (GRIPS), building on the principles established by prior reporting guidelines.These recommendations aim to enhance the transparency, quality and completeness of study reporting, and thereby to improve the synthesis and application of information from multiple studies that might differ in design, conduct or analysis.
There is an overwhelming abundance of genetic association studies available in the literature, which often can be collectively difficult to interpret. To address this issue, the Venice interim guidelines were established for determining the credibility of the cumulative evidence. The objective of this report is to evaluate the literature on the association of common GST variants (GSTM1 null, GSTT1 null and GSTP1 Ile105Val polymorphism) and lung cancer, and to assess the credibility of the associations using the newly proposed cumulative evidence guidelines. Information from the literature was enriched with an updated meta-analysis and a pooled analysis using data from the Genetic Susceptibility to Environmental Carcinogens (GSEC) database. There was a significant association between GSTM1 null and lung cancer for the meta- (meta OR = 1.17, 95% CI: 1.10–1.25) and pooled analysis (adjusted OR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.04–1.16), although substantial heterogeneity was present. No overall association between lung cancer and GSTT1 null or GSTP1 Ile105Val was found. When the Venice criteria was applied, cumulative evidence for all associations were considered “weak”, with the exception of East Asian carriers of the G allele of GSTP1 Ile105Val, which was graded as “moderate” evidence. In spite of large amounts of studies, and several statistically significant summary estimates produced by meta-analyses, the application of the Venice criteria suggests extensive heterogeneity and susceptibility to bias for the studies on association of common genetic polymorphisms, such as with GST variants and lung cancer.
meta-analysis; pooled analysis; GSTM1; GSTT1; GSTP1; lung cancer; evidence
Industry involvement has been associated with more favourable cost-effectiveness ratios in cost-effectiveness analyses, but the mechanisms for this association are unclear. We evaluated whether the assumed accuracy of the Papanicolaou (Pap) test was correlated with the features of cost-effectiveness analysis studies.
We searched PubMed (last updated April 2010) for cost-effectiveness analysis studies in which at least one strategy involved the Pap test for cervical cancer. We assessed the baseline assumed diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of the Pap test in each study and the association of these values with three levels of manufacturer involvement in the study.
Among 88 analyzed cost-effectiveness analysis studies, the assumed sensitivity of the Pap test was lower in studies with manufacturer-affiliated authors, manufacturer funding or manufacturer-related competing interests versus studies without (mean sensitivity 60% v. 70%, p < 0.001). The assumed specificity of the Pap test was lower in cost-effectiveness analyses involving new screening tests (mean 93% v. 96%, p = 0.016). The assumed specificity did not differ between trials with manufacturer involvement versus those without (mean 95% v. 95%, p = 0.755).
The results of cost-effectiveness analyses may be affected by a downgrading of the assumed diagnostic accuracy of the standard Pap test against which newer tests or interventions are compared. New technology then seems to have more favourable results against a straw-man comparator.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using population-based designs have identified many genetic loci associated with risk of a range of complex diseases including cancer; however, each locus exerts a very small effect and most heritability remains unexplained. Family-based pedigree studies have also suggested tentative loci linked to increased cancer risk, often characterized by pedigree-specificity. However, a comparison between the results of population-and those of family-based studies shows little concordance. Explanations for this unidentified genetic ‘dark matter’ of cancer include phenotype ascertainment issues, limited power, gene-gene and gene-environment interactions, population heterogeneity, parent-of-origin-specific effects, rare and unexplored variants. Many of these reasons converge towards the concept of genetic heterogeneity that might implicate hundreds of genetic variants in regulating cancer risk. Dissecting the dark matter is a challenging task. Further insights can be gained from both population association and pedigree studies.
complex genetics; genetic linkage; polygenic inheritance; single nucleotide polymorphisms
The advent of genome-wide association studies has allowed considerable progress in the identification and robust replication of common gene variants that confer susceptibility to common diseases and other phenotypes of interest. These genetic effect sizes are almost invariably moderate-to-small in magnitude and single studies, even if large, are underpowered to detect them with confidence. Meta-analysis of many genome-wide association studies improves the power to detect more associations, and to investigate the consistency or heterogeneity of these associations across diverse datasets and study populations. In this review, we discuss the key methodological issues in the set-up, information gathering and processing, and analysis of meta-analyses of genome-wide association datasets. We illustrate, as an example, the application of meta-analysis methods in the elucidation of common genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes. Finally, we discuss the prospects and caveats for future application of meta-analysis methods in the genome-wide setting.
meta-analysis; genome-wide association studies; replication; heterogeneity; methods
Julian Little and colleagues present the STREGA recommendations, which are aimed at improving the reporting of genetic association studies.
gene-disease associations; genetics; gene-environment interaction; systematic review; meta analysis; reporting recommendations; epidemiology; genome-wide association
Meta-analysis is the systematic and quantitative synthesis of effect sizes and the exploration of their diversity across different studies. Meta-analyses are increasingly applied to synthesize data from genome-wide association (GWA) studies and from other teams that try to replicate the genetic variants that emerge from such investigations. Between-study heterogeneity is important to document and may point to interesting leads.
To exemplify these issues, we used data from three GWA studies on type 2 diabetes and their replication efforts where meta-analyses of all data using fixed effects methods (not incorporating between-study heterogeneity) have already been published. We considered 11 polymorphisms that at least one of the three teams has suggested as susceptibility loci for type 2 diabetes. The I2 inconsistency metric (measuring the amount of heterogeneity not due to chance) was different from 0 (no detectable heterogeneity) for 6 of the 11 genetic variants; inconsistency was moderate to very large (I2 = 32–77%) for 5 of them. For these 5 polymorphisms, random effects calculations incorporating between-study heterogeneity revealed more conservative p-values for the summary effects compared with the fixed effects calculations. These 5 associations were perused in detail to highlight potential explanations for between-study heterogeneity. These include identification of a marker for a correlated phenotype (e.g. FTO rs8050136 being associated with type 2 diabetes through its effect on obesity); differential linkage disequilibrium across studies of the identified genetic markers with the respective culprit polymorphisms (e.g., possibly the case for CDKAL1 polymorphisms or for rs9300039 and markers in linkage disequilibrium, as shown by additional studies); and potential bias. Results were largely similar, when we treated the discovery and replication data from each GWA investigation as separate studies.
Between-study heterogeneity is useful to document in the synthesis of data from GWA investigations and can offer valuable insights for further clarification of gene-disease associations.
Statistical tests for funnel-plot asymmetry are common in meta-analyses. Inappropriate application can generate misleading inferences about publication bias. We aimed to measure, in a survey of meta-analyses, how frequently the application of these tests would be not meaningful or inappropriate.
We evaluated all meta-analyses of binary outcomes with é 3 studies in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2003, issue 2). A separate, restricted analysis was confined to the largest meta-analysis in each of the review articles. In each meta-analysis, we assessed whether criteria to apply asymmetry tests were met: no significant heterogeneity, I2 < 50%, é 10 studies (with statistically significant results in at least 1) and ratio of the maximal to minimal variance across studies > 4. We performed a correlation and 2 regression asymmetry tests and evaluated their concordance. Finally, we sampled 60 meta-analyses from print journals in 2005 that cited use of the standard regression test.
A total of 366 of 6873 (5%) and 98 of 846 meta-analyses (12%) in the wider and restricted Cochrane data set, respectively, would have qualified for use of asymmetry tests. Asymmetry test results were significant in 7%–18% of the meta-analyses. Concordance between the 3 tests was modest (estimated k 0.33–0.66). Of the 60 journal meta-analyses, 7 (12%) would qualify for asymmetry tests; all 11 claims for identification of publication bias were made in the face of large and significant heterogeneity.
Statistical conditions for employing asymmetry tests for publication bias are absent from most meta-analyses; yet, in medical journals these tests are performed often and interpreted erroneously.
Genome-wide association studies hold substantial promise for identifying common genetic variants that regulate susceptibility to complex diseases. However, for the detection of small genetic effects, single studies may be underpowered. Power may be improved by combining genome-wide datasets with meta-analytic techniques.
Both single and two-stage genome-wide data may be combined and there are several possible strategies. In the two-stage framework, we considered the options of (1) enhancement of replication data and (2) enhancement of first-stage data, and then, we also considered (3) joint meta-analyses including all first-stage and second-stage data. These strategies were examined empirically using data from two genome-wide association studies (three datasets) on Parkinson disease. In the three strategies, we derived 12, 5, and 49 single nucleotide polymorphisms that show significant associations at conventional levels of statistical significance. None of these remained significant after conservative adjustment for the number of performed analyses in each strategy. However, some may warrant further consideration: 6 SNPs were identified with at least 2 of the 3 strategies and 3 SNPs [rs1000291 on chromosome 3, rs2241743 on chromosome 4 and rs3018626 on chromosome 11] were identified with all 3 strategies and had no or minimal between-dataset heterogeneity (I2 = 0, 0 and 15%, respectively). Analyses were primarily limited by the suboptimal overlap of tested polymorphisms across different datasets (e.g., only 31,192 shared polymorphisms between the two tier 1 datasets).
Meta-analysis may be used to improve the power and examine the between-dataset heterogeneity of genome-wide association studies. Prospective designs may be most efficient, if they try to maximize the overlap of genotyping platforms and anticipate the combination of data across many genome-wide association studies.
Information on major harms of medical interventions comes primarily from epidemiologic studies performed after licensing and marketing. Comparison with data from large-scale randomized trials is occasionally feasible. We compared evidence from randomized trials with that from epidemiologic studies to determine whether they give different estimates of risk for important harms of medical interventions.
We targeted well-defined, specific harms of various medical interventions for which data were already available from large-scale randomized trials (> 4000 subjects). Nonrandomized studies involving at least 4000 subjects addressing these same harms were retrieved through a search of MEDLINE. We compared the relative risks and absolute risk differences for specific harms in the randomized and nonrandomized studies.
Eligible nonrandomized studies were found for 15 harms for which data were available from randomized trials addressing the same harms. Comparisons of relative risks between the study types were feasible for 13 of the 15 topics, and of absolute risk differences for 8 topics. The estimated increase in relative risk differed more than 2-fold between the randomized and nonrandomized studies for 7 (54%) of the 13 topics; the estimated increase in absolute risk differed more than 2-fold for 5 (62%) of the 8 topics. There was no clear predilection for randomized or nonrandomized studies to estimate greater relative risks, but usually (75% [6/8]) the randomized trials estimated larger absolute excess risks of harm than the nonrandomized studies did.
Nonrandomized studies are often conservative in estimating absolute risks of harms. It would be useful to compare and scrutinize the evidence on harms obtained from both randomized and nonrandomized studies.
Postulated epidemiological associations are subject to several biases. We evaluated whether the Chinese literature on human genome epidemiology may offer insights on the operation of selective reporting and language biases.
Methods and Findings
We targeted 13 gene-disease associations, each already assessed by meta-analyses, including at least 15 non-Chinese studies. We searched the Chinese Journal Full-Text Database for additional Chinese studies on the same topics. We identified 161 Chinese studies on 12 of these gene-disease associations; only 20 were PubMed-indexed (seven English full-text). Many studies (14–35 per topic) were available for six topics, covering diseases common in China. With one exception, the first Chinese study appeared with a time lag (2–21 y) after the first non-Chinese study on the topic. Chinese studies showed significantly more prominent genetic effects than non-Chinese studies, and 48% were statistically significant per se, despite their smaller sample size (median sample size 146 versus 268, p < 0.001). The largest genetic effects were often seen in PubMed-indexed Chinese studies (65% statistically significant per se). Non-Chinese studies of Asian-descent populations (27% significant per se) also tended to show somewhat more prominent genetic effects than studies of non-Asian descent (17% significant per se).
Our data provide evidence for the interplay of selective reporting and language biases in human genome epidemiology. These biases may not be limited to the Chinese literature and point to the need for a global, transparent, comprehensive outlook in molecular population genetics and epidemiologic studies in general.
Using the chinese literature as an example, John Ioannidis and colleagues show that selective reporting and language biases occur frequently in human genome epidemiology
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have reported multiple activation foci associated with a variety of conditions, stimuli or tasks. However, most of these studies used fewer than 40 participants.
After extracting data (number of subjects, condition studied, number of foci identified and threshold) from 94 brain fMRI meta-analyses (k = 1,788 unique datasets) published through December of 2011, we analyzed the correlation between individual study sample sizes and number of significant foci reported. We also performed an analysis where we evaluated each meta-analysis to test whether there was a correlation between the sample size of the meta-analysis and the number of foci that it had identified. Correlation coefficients were then combined across all meta-analyses to obtain a summary correlation coefficient with a fixed effects model and we combine correlation coefficients, using a Fisher’s z transformation.
There was no correlation between sample size and the number of foci reported in single studies (r = 0.0050) but there was a strong correlation between sample size and number of foci in meta-analyses (r = 0.62, p<0.001). Only studies with sample sizes <45 identified larger (>40) numbers of foci and claimed as many discovered foci as studies with sample sizes ≥45, whereas meta-analyses yielded a limited number of foci relative to the yield that would be anticipated from smaller single studies.
These results are consistent with possible reporting biases affecting small fMRI studies and suggest the need to promote standardized large-scale evidence in this field. It may also be that small studies may be analyzed and reported in ways that may generate a larger number of claimed foci or that small fMRI studies with inconclusive, null, or not very promising results may not be published at all.
The evaluation of 160 meta-analyses of animal studies on potential treatments for neurological disorders reveals that the number of statistically significant results was too large to be true, suggesting biases.
Animal studies generate valuable hypotheses that lead to the conduct of preventive or therapeutic clinical trials. We assessed whether there is evidence for excess statistical significance in results of animal studies on neurological disorders, suggesting biases. We used data from meta-analyses of interventions deposited in Collaborative Approach to Meta-Analysis and Review of Animal Data in Experimental Studies (CAMARADES). The number of observed studies with statistically significant results (O) was compared with the expected number (E), based on the statistical power of each study under different assumptions for the plausible effect size. We assessed 4,445 datasets synthesized in 160 meta-analyses on Alzheimer disease (n = 2), experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (n = 34), focal ischemia (n = 16), intracerebral hemorrhage (n = 61), Parkinson disease (n = 45), and spinal cord injury (n = 2). 112 meta-analyses (70%) found nominally (p≤0.05) statistically significant summary fixed effects. Assuming the effect size in the most precise study to be a plausible effect, 919 out of 4,445 nominally significant results were expected versus 1,719 observed (p<10−9). Excess significance was present across all neurological disorders, in all subgroups defined by methodological characteristics, and also according to alternative plausible effects. Asymmetry tests also showed evidence of small-study effects in 74 (46%) meta-analyses. Significantly effective interventions with more than 500 animals, and no hints of bias were seen in eight (5%) meta-analyses. Overall, there are too many animal studies with statistically significant results in the literature of neurological disorders. This observation suggests strong biases, with selective analysis and outcome reporting biases being plausible explanations, and provides novel evidence on how these biases might influence the whole research domain of neurological animal literature.
Studies have shown that the results of animal biomedical experiments fail to translate into human clinical trials; this could be attributed either to real differences in the underlying biology between humans and animals, to shortcomings in the experimental design, or to bias in the reporting of results from the animal studies. We use a statistical technique to evaluate whether the number of published animal studies with “positive” (statistically significant) results is too large to be true. We assess 4,445 animal studies for 160 candidate treatments of neurological disorders, and observe that 1,719 of them have a “positive” result, whereas only 919 studies would a priori be expected to have such a result. According to our methodology, only eight of the 160 evaluated treatments should have been subsequently tested in humans. In summary, we judge that there are too many animal studies with “positive” results in the neurological disorder literature, and we discuss the reasons and potential remedies for this phenomenon.
Meta-analyses are increasingly popular. It is unknown whether this popularity is driven by specific countries and specific meta-analyses types. PubMed was used to identify meta-analyses since 1995 (last update 9/1/2012) and catalogue their types and country of origin. We focused more on meta-analyses from China (the current top producer of meta-analyses) versus the USA (top producer until recently). The annual number of meta-analyses from China increased 40-fold between 2003 and 2011 versus 2.4-fold for the USA. The growth of Chinese meta-analyses was driven by genetics (110-fold increase in 2011 versus 2003). The HuGE Navigator identified 612 meta-analyses of genetic association studies published in 2012 from China versus only 109 from the USA. We compared in-depth 50 genetic association meta-analyses from China versus 50 from USA in 2012. Meta-analyses from China almost always used only literature-based data (92%), and focused on one or two genes (94%) and variants (78%) identified with candidate gene approaches (88%), while many USA meta-analyses used genome-wide approaches and raw data. Both groups usually concluded favorably for the presence of genetic associations (80% versus 74%), but nominal significance (P<0.05) typically sufficed in the China group. Meta-analyses from China typically neglected genome-wide data, and often included candidate gene studies published in Chinese-language journals. Overall, there is an impressive rise of meta-analyses from China, particularly on genetic associations. Since most claimed candidate gene associations are likely false-positives, there is an urgent global need to incorporate genome-wide data and state-of-the art statistical inferences to avoid a flood of false-positive genetic meta-analyses.
personalized medicine; coronary artery disease; genotyping; SNP; preventive cardiology
We propose guidelines to evaluate the cumulative evidence of gene–environment (G × E) interactions in the causation of human cancer. Our approach has its roots in the HuGENet and IARC Monographs evaluation processes for genetic and environmental risk factors, respectively, and can be applied to common chronic diseases other than cancer. We first review issues of definitions of G × E interactions, discovery and modelling methods for G × E interactions, and issues in systematic reviews of evidence for G × E interactions, since these form the foundation for appraising the credibility of evidence in this contentious field. We then propose guidelines that include four steps: (i) score the strength of the evidence for main effects of the (a) environmental exposure and (b) genetic variant; (ii) establish a prior score category and decide on the pattern of interaction to be expected; (iii) score the strength of the evidence for interaction between the environmental exposure and the genetic variant; and (iv) examine the overall plausibility of interaction by combining the prior score and the strength of the evidence and interpret results. We finally apply the scheme to the interaction between NAT2 polymorphism and tobacco smoking in determining bladder cancer risk.
Genetics; environment; interactions; evaluations