dsSurvival: Privacy preserving survival models for federated individual patient meta-analysis in DataSHIELD

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Sofack, Ghislain 
Papakonstantinou, Thodoris 
Avraam, Demetris 
Burton, Paul 

Objective Achieving sufficient statistical power in a survival analysis usually requires large amounts of data from different sites. Sensitivity of individual-level data, ethical and practical considerations regarding data sharing across institutions could be a potential challenge for achieving this added power. Hence we implemented a federated meta-analysis approach of survival models in DataSHIELD, where only anonymous aggregated data are shared across institutions, while simultaneously allowing for exploratory, interactive modelling.

In this case, meta-analysis techniques to combine analysis results from each site are a solution, but an analytic workflow involving local analysis undertaken at individual studies hinders exploration. Thus, the aim is to provide a framework for performing meta-analysis of Cox regression models across institutions without manual analysis steps for the data providers.

Results We introduce a package (dsSurvival) which allows privacy preserving meta-analysis of survival models, including the calculation of hazard ratios. Our tool can be of great use in biomedical research where there is a need for building survival models and there are privacy concerns about sharing data.

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BMC Research Notes
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BioMed Central