Results Summary

What was the project about?

Factors, such as personal traits, behaviors, or the environment, can affect a person’s risk of getting an illness. Doctors can use risk models, which account for these factors, to predict a person’s chance of getting an illness. The risk models group patients into different levels for certain illnesses, such as high risk or low risk.

Most risk models look at only a small number of factors, which affects how well the models can separate patients into different levels. Combining factors from different studies into a single risk model may improve how well the model works. Researchers can use statistical methods to combine data from different studies. But current methods don’t work when the studies look at different traits or other factors.

In this study, the research team developed a new method for combining data from studies that have information on different risk factors. The new method is called Generalized Meta-Analysis, or GENMETA.

What did the research team do?

The research team developed the GENMETA method to combine risk factor data from different studies. Study data could come from different sources, such as health records or surveys. Studies might also look at different risk factors.

To test GENMETA, the research team first used a computer program to create data that mimic real-world study data. The data had problems that often occur in real-world data. For example, some data may be missing from one study, or data may have been collected at different times. Even with these problems, GENMETA worked well. The team also developed an approach to detect such data problems.

Next, the research team used GENMETA to develop a risk model for breast cancer. They combined data from two studies. One study had many patients but only had data on a few risk factors. The other study had fewer patients but data on more risk factors. The team used the approach to detect data problems.

What were the results?

The risk model for breast cancer that the research team created using GENMETA successfully combined the data from the two different studies. The model used all the risk factors from the two studies.

The research team developed software for others to use GENMETA and shared it online for free.

What were the limits of the project?

GENMETA may not work if studies have different criteria about which patients can join the study. For example, studies may include patients in different age ranges or from different regions.

Future research could expand the method to handle patient differences across studies.

How can people use the results?

Researchers can use the new method to build risk models using data from different studies.

Final Research Report

View this project's final research report.

Peer-Review Summary

Peer review of PCORI-funded research helps make sure the report presents complete, balanced, and useful information about the research. It also assesses how the project addressed PCORI’s Methodology Standards. During peer review, experts read a draft report of the research and provide comments about the report. These experts may include a scientist focused on the research topic, a specialist in research methods, a patient or caregiver, and a healthcare professional. These reviewers cannot have conflicts of interest with the study.

The peer reviewers point out where the draft report may need revision. For example, they may suggest ways to improve descriptions of the conduct of the study or to clarify the connection between results and conclusions. Sometimes, awardees revise their draft reports twice or more to address all of the reviewers’ comments. 

Peer reviewers commented and the researchers made changes or provided responses. Those comments and responses included the following:

  • The reviewers primarily commented on the clarity of this report because the methodology research described has already been published.  The reviewers asked the researchers to expand their overview of their research so that clinical researchers who are not expert statisticians can understand the study. The researchers made these adjustments to the final report.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Project Information

Nilanjan Chatterjee, PhD
Johns Hopkins University
Statistical Methods for Development, Validation, and Implementation of Absolute Risk Models

Key Dates

December 2016
November 2022

Study Registration Information


Has Results
Award Type
Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
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Last updated: October 18, 2023