Blood eosinophils, fractional exhaled nitric oxide and the risk of asthma attacks in randomised controlled trials: protocol for a systemic review and control arm patient-level meta-analysis for clinical prediction modelling.
Couillard S., Steyerberg E., Beasley R., Pavord I.
IntroductionThe reduction of the risk of asthma attacks is a major goal of guidelines. The fact that type-2 inflammatory biomarkers identify a higher risk, anti-inflammatory responsive phenotype is potentially relevant to this goal. We aim to quantify the relation between blood eosinophils, exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) and the risk of severe asthma attacks.Methods and analysisA systematic review of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) will be conducted by searching MEDLINE from January 1993 to April 2021. We will include RCTs that investigated the effect of fixed treatment(s) regimen(s) on severe asthma exacerbation rates over at least 24 weeks and reported a baseline value for blood eosinophils and FeNO. Study selection will follow the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, and the methodological appraisal of the studies will be assessed by the Cochrane Risk-of-Bias Tool for RCTs. Study authors will be contacted to request anonymised individual participant data (IPD) for patients randomised to the trial's control arm. An IPD meta-analysis will be performed for multivariable prognostic modelling with performance assessment (calibration plots and the c-statistic) in a cross-validation by study procedure. The outcome to predict is the absolute number of severe asthma attacks to occur in the following 12 months if anti-inflammatory therapy is not changed (ie, annualised number of attacks requiring ≥3 days of systemic corticosteroids and/or hospitalisation if the patient was randomised to the control arm of an RCT). A summary prognostic equation and risk stratification chart will be reported as a basis for further analyses of individualised treatment benefit.Ethics and disseminationThe protocol has been reviewed by the relevant Oxford academic ethics committee and found to comprise fully anonymised data not requiring further ethical approbation. Results will be communicated in an international meeting and submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.Prospero registration numberCRD42021245337.