The role of visit-to-visit variability of a biomarker in predicting related disease has been recognized in medical science. Existing measures of biological variability are criticized for being entangled with random variability resulted from measurement error or being unreliable due to limited measurements per individual. In this article, we propose a new measure to quantify the biological variability of a biomarker by evaluating the fluctuation of each individual-specific trajectory behind longitudinal measurements. Given a mixed-effects model for longitudinal data with the mean function over time specified by cubic splines, our proposed variability measure can be mathematically expressed as a quadratic form of random effects. A Cox model is assumed for time-to-event data by incorporating the defined variability as well as the current level of the underlying longitudinal trajectory as covariates, which, together with the longitudinal model, constitutes the joint modeling framework in this article. Asymptotic properties of maximum likelihood estimators are established for the present joint model. Estimation is implemented via an Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm with fully exponential Laplace approximation used in E-step to reduce the computation burden due to the increase of the random effects dimension. Simulation studies are conducted to reveal the advantage of the proposed method over the two-stage method, as well as a simpler joint modeling approach which does not take into account biomarker variability. Finally, we apply our model to investigate the effect of systolic blood pressure variability on cardiovascular events in the Medical Research Council elderly trial, which is also the motivating example for this article.

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