Leveraging machine learning predictive biomarkers to augment the statistical power of clinical trials with baseline magnetic resonance imaging

Carolyn Lou, Mohamad Habes, Nicholas A. Illenberger, Ali Ezzati, Richard B. Lipton, Pamela A. Shaw, Alisa J. Stephens-Shields, Hamed Akbari, Jimit Doshi, Christos Davatzikos, Russell T. Shinohara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A key factor in designing randomized clinical trials is the sample size required to achieve a particular level of power to detect the benefit of a treatment. Sample size calculations depend upon the expected benefits of a treatment (effect size), the accuracy of measurement of the primary outcome, and the level of power specified by the investigators. In this study, we show that radiomic models, which leverage complex brain MRI patterns and machine learning, can be utilized in clinical trials with protocols that incorporate baseline MR imaging to significantly increase statistical power to detect treatment effects. Akin to the historical control paradigm, we propose to utilize a radiomic prediction model to generate a pseudocontrol sample for each individual in the trial of interest. Because the variability of expected outcome across patients can mask our ability to detect treatment effects, we can increase the power to detect a treatment effect in a clinical trial by reducing that variability through using radiomic predictors as surrogates. We illustrate this method with simulations based on data from two cohorts in different neurologic diseases, Alzheimer's disease and glioblastoma multiforme. We present sample size requirements across a range of effect sizes using conventional analysis and models that include a radiomic predictor. For our Alzheimer's disease cohort, at an effect size of 0.35, total sample size requirements for 80% power declined from 246 to 212 for the endpoint cognitive decline. For our glioblastoma multiforme cohort, at an effect size of 1.65 with the endpoint survival time, total sample size requirements declined from 128 to 74. This methodology can decrease the required sample sizes by as much as 50%, depending on the strength of the radiomic predictor. The power of this method grows with increased accuracy of radiomic prediction, and furthermore, this method is most helpful when treatment effect sizes are small. Neuroimaging biomarkers are a powerful and increasingly common suite of tools that are, in many cases, highly predictive of disease outcomes. Here, we explore the possibility of using MRI-based radiomic biomarkers for the purpose of improving statistical power in clinical trials in the contexts of brain cancer and prodromal Alzheimer's disease. These methods can be applied to a broad range of neurologic diseases using a broad range of predictors of outcome to make clinical trials more efficient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number264
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • clinical trials
  • machine learning
  • neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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