Surrogate evaluation is a difficult problem that is made more so by the presence of interference. Our proposed procedure can allow for relatively easy evaluation of surrogates for indirect or spill-over clinical effects at the cluster level. Our definition of surrogacy is based on the causal-association paradigm (Joffe and Greene, 2009. Related causal frameworks for surrogate outcomes. Biometrics65, 530–538), under which surrogates are evaluated by the strength of the association between a causal treatment effect on the clinical outcome and a causal treatment effect on the candidate surrogate. Hudgens and Halloran (2008, Toward causal inference with interference. Journal of the American Statistical Association103, 832–842) introduced estimators that can be used for many of the marginal causal estimands of interest in the presence of interference. We extend these to consider surrogates for not just direct effects, but indirect and total effects at the cluster level. We suggest existing estimators that can be used to evaluate biomarkers under our proposed definition of surrogacy. In our motivating setting of a transmission blocking malaria vaccine, there is expected to be no direct protection to those vaccinated and predictive surrogates are urgently needed. We use a set of simulated data examples based on the proposed Phase IIb/III trial design of transmission blocking malaria vaccine to demonstrate how our definition, proposed criteria and procedure can be used to identify biomarkers as predictive cluster level surrogates in the presence of interference on the clinical outcome.

This work is written by US Government employees and is in the public domain in the US.