Validation of a Prognostic Multivariable Prediction Model for Insufficient Clinical Response to Methotrexate in Early Rheumatoid Arthritis and Its Clinical Application in Evidencio

Introduction: Methotrexate (MTX) constitutes the first-line therapy in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), yet approximately 30% of the patients do not benefit from MTX. Recently, we reported a prognostic multivariable prediction model for insufficient clinical response to MTX at 3 months of treatment in the treatment in the Rotterdam Early Arthritis Cohort (tREACH), including baseline predictors: Disease activity score 28 (DAS28), Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), erythrocyte folate, single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs; ABCB1, ABCC3), smoking, and BMI. The purpose of the current study was (1) to externally validate the model and (2) to enhance the model’s clinical applicability.

Methods: Erythrocyte folate and SNPs were assessed in 91 early disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD)-naïve RA patients starting MTX in the external validation cohort (U-Act-Early). Insufficient response (DAS28 > 3.2) was determined after 3 months and non-response after 6 months of therapy. The previously developed prediction model was considered successfully validated in the U-Act-Early (validation cohort) if the area under the curve (AUC) of the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) was not significantly lower than in the tREACH (derivation cohort).

Results: The AUCs in U-Act-Early at three and 6 months were 0.75 (95% CI 0.64-0.85) and 0.71 (95% CI 0.60-0.82) respectively, similar to the tREACH. Baseline DAS28 > 5.1 and HAQ > 0.6 were the strongest predictors. The model was simplified by excluding the SNPs, while still classifying 73% correctly. Furthermore, interaction terms between BMI and HAQ and BMI and erythrocyte folate significantly improved the model increasing correct classification to 75%. Results were successfully implemented in Evidencio online platform assisting clinicians in shared decision-making to intensify treatment when appropriate.

Conclusions: We successfully externally validated our recently reported prediction model for MTX non-response and enhanced its clinical application thus enabling its evaluation in a clinical trial.

Trial registration: The U-Act-Early is registered at number: NCT01034137. tREACH is registered retrospectively at ISRCTN registry, number: ISRCTN26791028 at 23 August 2007.

Keywords: Arthritis; Health care; Methotrexate; Outcome assessment; Rheumatoid; Therapeutics.