The tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) staging system has been the anchor of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis for many years. For meaningful clinical use, an orderly, progressive condensation of the T and N categories into an overall staging system needs to be defined, usually with respect to a time-to-event outcome. This can be considered as a cutpoint selection problem for a censored response partitioned with respect to two ordered categorical covariates and their interaction. The aim is to select the best grouping of the TN categories. A novel bootstrap cutpoint/model selection method is proposed for this task by maximizing bootstrap estimates of the chosen statistical criteria. The criteria are based on prognostic ability including a landmark measure of the explained variation, the area under the ROC curve, and a concordance probability generalized from Harrell's c-index. We illustrate the utility of our method by applying it to the staging of colorectal cancer.
Biostatistics | Oncology
Lin, Yunzhi; Chappell, Richard; and Gonen, Mithat, "A Systematic Selection Method for the Development of Cancer Staging Systems" (January 2012). Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Dept. of Epidemiology & Biostatistics Working Paper Series. Working Paper 25.