What is it about?

If 700 out of 1000 patients 'responded' to a treatment for migraine, it is often assumed that it must work all the time for 70% of sufferers. An alternative explanation, which is hardly ever considered, is that it works for 100% of sufferers 70% of the time. Intermediate explanations are possible. This piece describes a number of statistical pitfalls, such as this one, that have lead to the scope for personalised medicine being exaggerated.

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Why is it important?

If we make better attempts at establishing where there is scope for personalising treatment, we shall allocate resources better and make more progress in doing so than if we always naively accept that lack of personalisation is the explanation for every treatment failure.


This piece makes a number of points that many medical statisticians will regard as obvious but may have difficulty explaining to their life science colleagues. I hope that the piece will help them in the task.

Professor Stephen J Senn
Consultant Statistician

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Statistical pitfalls of personalized medicine, Nature, November 2018, Springer Science + Business Media,
DOI: 10.1038/d41586-018-07535-2.
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