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Explaining the variability in drug sensitivity across a panel of cell lines using genomic information is a key aspect of cancer drug discovery. The results of such analyses may ultimately determine which patients are likely to benefit from a new treatment. There are numerous experimental factors that can influence the outcomes of cell line screening panels such as the number of replicates, number of doses explored etc. Simulation studies can aid in understanding how variability in these experimental factors can affect the statistical power of a given analysis method. In this study dose response data was simulated for a variety of experimental designs and the ability of different methods to retrieve the original simulation parameters was compared. The analysis methods under consideration were a combination of non-linear least squares and ANOVA, conventional approach, versus non-linear mixed effects. Across the simulation studies explored the mixed-effects approach gave similar and in some situations greater statistical power than the conventional approach. In particular the mixed-effects approach gave significantly greater power when there was less information per dose response curve, and when more cell lines screened.More generally the best way to improve statistical power was to screen more cell lines. This study demonstrates the value of simulating data to understand design and analysis choices in the context of cancer drug sensitivity screening. By illustrating the performance of different methods in different situations these results will help researchers in the field generate and analyse data on future preclinical compounds. Ultimately this will benefit patients by ensuring that biomarkers of drug sensitivity have an increased chance of being identified at the preclinical stage.
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