Biostatistics Training Initiative

Leaders

Dr. Richard Cook, University of Waterloo
Dr. Gregory Pond, McMaster University

Background

Recent technological advances have led to far more complex and much larger datasets in cancer research. There is a critical need for biostatisticians who can work with these data, ensuring they can be used to inform on the next generation of cancer treatments. Since 2010, the Biostatistics Training Initiative (BTI), previously known as the Oncology Research Training and Methods Program (ORTMP), has placed Master’s students from the University of Waterloo in eight-month internships with mentors at Ontario cancer centres. In doing so, the BTI is training the next generation of biostatisticians in the province, ensuring they are equipped with the technical knowledge, skill set and experience to deal with the changing landscape of cancer treatment and clinical trials.

Based on the success of the program in its first five years and feedback from the Ontario research community regarding its continued need for training, expertise and placement, the BTI expanded in 2016. The new expanded BTI engages a broader group of trainees, including PhDs and postdoctoral fellows, and fosters a sense of community amongst participants through a visiting lecture and monthly seminar series.

The BTI is funded through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

Internships

The BTI Internship Program is a continuation of the earlier OICR-funded ORMTP in which selected top Master’s students in Biostatistics from the University of Waterloo are placed in eight-month internship positions in cancer research centres across Ontario with joint mentorship by a biostatistician and an oncology researcher. Up to four fully funded placements will be made each year from 2016-2020.

For further information and instructions to apply, please visit https://uwaterloo.ca/biostatistics-training-initiative/internship

Fellowships

The BTI Fellowship Program is designed to support doctoral and postdoctoral training in biostatistics for cancer research. The primary objective of the Program is to support the training of the next generation of biostatisticians in the province, ensuring they are equipped with the technical knowledge, skill set and capability for the application of rigorous quantitative methods for cancer research. Through the receipt of a BTI Studentship/Fellowship Award, biostatistics or statistics doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows at an Ontario university will engage in interdisciplinary, collaborative cancer research with investigators located at an Ontario Host Institution.

Any questions about these awards or how to apply may be emailed to scientificsecretariat@oicr.on.ca.

Seminar series

A monthly seminar series will be held by WebEx/teleconferencing on advanced issues in clinical and population health advances, as well as methodological challenges arising in cancer research. The aim is to engage clinicians, statisticians, interns and fellows. The focus of the seminars will include:

  1. recently completed high impact trials in oncology within the group and internationally,
  2. recent developments in the design and analysis of cancer clinical trials,
  3. biostatistical and more general methodological challenges arising in the planning or conduct of trials, and
  4. reports of ongoing methodological research conducted by engaged faculty, students and interns.

BTI Fellowship Program

The BTI Fellowship Program is designed to support doctoral and postdoctoral training in biostatistics for cancer research. The primary objective of the Program is to support the training of the next generation of biostatisticians in the province, ensuring they are equipped with the technical knowledge, skill set and capability for the application of rigorous quantitative methods for cancer research. Through the receipt of a BTI Studentship / Fellowship Award, biostatistics or statistics doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows at an Ontario university will engage in interdisciplinary, collaborative cancer research with investigators located at an Ontario Host Institution.

BTI Studentship / Fellowship Award

Up to four Studentship/Fellowship Awards each valued at $15,000 per year for up to two years will be made available. Funds must be used to support doctoral students or postdoctoral fellows conducting biostatistical or statistical research which has an application to a problem in oncology.

Postdoctoral fellows are strongly encouraged to seek leveraged funds from CANSSI at http://www.canssi.ca/research-and-training-opportunities/canssi-postdoctoral-fellowships/.

Applicants

Eligible applicants include:

  • Students currently enrolled in the second or higher year of a Biostatistics or Statistics Doctoral Program at an Ontario university; or
  • Current Postdoctoral Fellows in Ontario or individuals beginning a postdoctoral position in Ontario within six months of the application deadline; fellows must have completed doctoral training in biostatistics or statistics.

Application deadline

Applications, composed of completed Form I, letters of support, biosketch and curriculum vitae (CV), must be submitted to teresa.petrocelli@oicr.on.ca by 5 p.m. EST on January 31, 2019. Additional details are available in the Applicant guide. Awards will be announced by the end of February 2019 with funds available by April 1, 2019.

BTI Seminar Series

January 22 2019, 2 – 3:00 p.m.

Dr. Olli Saarela,
Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Title: Causal Inference Methods for Quality of Care Comparisons in Health Services Research

Abstract: In comparing quality of care between hospitals, disease-specific quality indicators measure structural, process or outcome elements related to the care of a particular condition. Such comparisons can be framed in terms of causal contrasts, answering the question whether a patient (or a population of patients on average) would receive different care if treated at the care level of a different hospital. Fair comparisons have to be adjusted for patient case-mix, which is equivalent to controlling for confounding by the patient level factors, including demographic factors, comorbidities and disease progression. The methodological choice for such comparisons is usually between direct and indirect standardization methods. In this talk, I will discuss the alternative of inverse probability weighting as a tool for standardization in hospital comparisons. This involves fitting multinomial logistic hospital assignment models and using these to construct the inverse probability weights, where the challenge in the present context is the presence of large number of hospitals being compared, many of which have a small patient volume. I will focus on methods and metrics for checking the positivity/overlap and covariate balance in constructing such weights. The methods will be illustrated in a running example using linked administrative data on surgical treatment of kidney cancer patients in Ontario. I will also briefly point to extensions of this work, including doubly robust estimators, and causal mediation analysis of care pathways.

Biosketch: Dr. Saarela is an Assistant Professor at the Biostatistics Division of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. He studied statistics at the University of Helsinki, obtaining a Master of Social Sciences degree in 2004 and PhD in 2010; during his PhD studies, Dr. Saarela also worked as a statistician at the National Institute for Health and Welfare of Finland. He came to Canada for a postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health of McGill University, before joining University of Toronto as faculty in the summer of 2014. Dr. Saarela has extensive experience in collaborative statistical work, and with his methodological research is often motivated by the collaborations. His background is in causal inference and survival and event history analysis; recently he has been interested in adapting causal inference methods to answering questions in health services research, as well as using causal models in planning and analysis of randomized trials for subgroup effects.

Learning objectives: Using real examples, this talk will cover practical issues in fitting multinomial logistic assignment models for multi-level categorical exposures, and checking overlap and covariate balance in constructing inverse probability weights based on such models.

Background reading:

Locations:

Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Boardroom 5-20/21, MaRS Centre
661 University Avenue, Suite 510, Toronto, Ontario

University of Waterloo
M3 3001, 200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario

Online:

  1. Register your name and email:
    a) Go to https://cc.callinfo.com/r/1509urc50ump4&eom;
    b) Register your first and last name, email address, and click “Register Now”. Registration can be done several minutes in advance of the webinar. No password is required.
  2. Join the teleconference:
    a) Dial-in using: 1.800.503.2899, access code: 2484428;
    b) Important: Phones will be muted during the presentation, and unmuted for question period. All questions must be asked during question period.

In advance of the seminar, we strongly recommend testing the WebEx application to ensure your computer is compatible. To do so, use https://www.webex.com/test-meeting.html to launch the test. You will be required to enter your name and email address. It will then run a test WebEx meeting advising if it was successful. Should you experience technical difficulty, please contact your IT administrator.

We look forward to your participation.


Past Seminar Series

October 23

  • Matching in causal inference for high-dimensional data.
    Dr. Yeying Zhu, Assistant Professor at Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo

September 25

  • Population Health Cohorts and Two-Phase Studies
    Dr. David Soave, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics, Wilfrid Laurier University

May 22, 2018.

  • Treatment-biomarker interaction through local likelihood method
    Dr. Wenyu Jiang, Associate Professor, Department Mathematics and Statistics, Queen’s University

April 24, 2018


March 27, 2018


February 27, 2018


January 23, 2018


November 15, 2017


October 24, 2017


September 26, 2017


May 30, 2017


April 25, 2017


February 28, 2017


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Dr. Rinku Sutradhar
Senior Scientist, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences

TExamining cancer screening adherence in Ontario using multistate transitional models.

Abstract:
Understanding disparities among women in breast cancer screening adherence is of considerable interest, however prior work has been methodologically limited. Our work longitudinally examines adherence to screening, and determines factors associated with becoming adherent. The cohort consisted of 2, 537, 960 women age 50-74 from Ontario, Canada. Using age as the time scale, a relative rate multivariable regression was implemented under the 3-state transitional model to examine the association between covariates (all time-varying) and the rate of becoming adherent. Individual- and physician-level characteristics played an important role in a woman’s adherence to screening. Our research improves the quality of evidence regarding disparities among women in adherence to breast cancer screening, and provides a novel methodological foundation to investigate adherence for other types of cancer screening, including cervix and colorectal cancer screening.


Tuesday December 13, 2016

Methodology to Identify Environmental and Host Genomic Association on Human Microbiome Data
Dr. Wei Xu
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Abstract:
Technological advances in genomic sequencing have enabled researchers to unveil the wide variability of bacteria presented within different locations of the body, i.e. the microbiome, and how it relates to disease. However, our understanding of how microbiomes affect diseases is still unclear. It is necessary to better understand both environmental and host genetic factors impact the composition of the microbiome to improve disease management. Powerful statistical and bioinformatics tools are needed to overcome these knowledge gaps.


Friday November 25, 2016

Phase II Study Design in Oncology Drug Development
Dr. Wendy Parulekar, MD
Senior Investigator, Cancer Clinical Trials Group, Queens University

BTI title slide from Friday November 25
Download the slides

Abstract:
The Phase II trial has a pivotal role in drug development since the decision to proceed with further evaluation of a drug/ drug combination is based on the efficacy and safety data generated from this type of study. Important additional generated from the Phase II trial may include elucidation of the mechanism of action of a new therapy and delineation of the target population for administration. The objectives of this webinar are to provide the clinician perspective on Phase II trial design and conduct including classification of designs and statistical framework. Examples of actual clinical trials will be drawn from the casebook of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group.


May 20, 2016


April 22, 2016


April 1, 2016

Abstract:
Cancer clinical trials are routinely designed on the basis of event-free survival time where the event of interest may represent a complication, metastasis, relapse, or progression. This talk is concerned with a number of statistical issues arising from the use of such endpoints including the interpretation of results based on composite endpoints, the consequences of naïve analysis of event times subject to dual censoring schemes, and the causal interpretation of treatment effects. Related issues in the joint analysis of longitudinal and survival data will also be highlighted.