# Related Articles

Collaborative double robust targeted maximum likelihood estimators represent a fundamental further advance over standard targeted maximum likelihood estimators of a pathwise differentiable parameter of a data generating distribution in a semiparametric model, introduced in van der Laan, Rubin (2006). The targeted maximum likelihood approach involves fluctuating an initial estimate of a relevant factor (Q) of the density of the observed data, in order to make a bias/variance tradeoff targeted towards the parameter of interest. The fluctuation involves estimation of a nuisance parameter portion of the likelihood, g. TMLE has been shown to be consistent and asymptotically normally distributed (CAN) under regularity conditions, when either one of these two factors of the likelihood of the data is correctly specified, and it is semiparametric efficient if both are correctly specified.

In this article we provide a template for applying collaborative targeted maximum likelihood estimation (C-TMLE) to the estimation of pathwise differentiable parameters in semi-parametric models. The procedure creates a sequence of candidate targeted maximum likelihood estimators based on an initial estimate for Q coupled with a succession of increasingly non-parametric estimates for g. In a departure from current state of the art nuisance parameter estimation, C-TMLE estimates of g are constructed based on a loss function for the targeted maximum likelihood estimator of the relevant factor Q that uses the nuisance parameter to carry out the fluctuation, instead of a loss function for the nuisance parameter itself. Likelihood-based cross-validation is used to select the best estimator among all candidate TMLE estimators of Q0 in this sequence. A penalized-likelihood loss function for Q is suggested when the parameter of interest is borderline-identifiable.

We present theoretical results for “collaborative double robustness,” demonstrating that the collaborative targeted maximum likelihood estimator is CAN even when Q and g are both mis-specified, providing that g solves a specified score equation implied by the difference between the Q and the true Q0. This marks an improvement over the current definition of double robustness in the estimating equation literature.

We also establish an asymptotic linearity theorem for the C-DR-TMLE of the target parameter, showing that the C-DR-TMLE is more adaptive to the truth, and, as a consequence, can even be super efficient if the first stage density estimator does an excellent job itself with respect to the target parameter.

This research provides a template for targeted efficient and robust loss-based learning of a particular target feature of the probability distribution of the data within large (infinite dimensional) semi-parametric models, while still providing statistical inference in terms of confidence intervals and p-values. This research also breaks with a taboo (e.g., in the propensity score literature in the field of causal inference) on using the relevant part of likelihood to fine-tune the fitting of the nuisance parameter/censoring mechanism/treatment mechanism.

doi:10.2202/1557-4679.1181

PMCID: PMC2898626
PMID: 20628637

asymptotic linearity; coarsening at random; causal effect; censored data; crossvalidation; collaborative double robust; double robust; efficient influence curve; estimating function; estimator selection; influence curve; G-computation; locally efficient; loss-function; marginal structural model; maximum likelihood estimation; model selection; pathwise derivative; semiparametric model; sieve; super efficiency; super-learning; targeted maximum likelihood estimation; targeted nuisance parameter estimator selection; variable importance

In this paper, we are concerned with how to select significant variables in semiparametric modeling. Variable selection for semiparametric regression models consists of two components: model selection for nonparametric components and select significant variables for parametric portion. Thus, it is much more challenging than that for parametric models such as linear models and generalized linear models because traditional variable selection procedures including stepwise regression and the best subset selection require model selection to nonparametric components for each submodel. This leads to very heavy computational burden. In this paper, we propose a class of variable selection procedures for semiparametric regression models using nonconcave penalized likelihood. The newly proposed procedures are distinguished from the traditional ones in that they delete insignificant variables and estimate the coefficients of significant variables simultaneously. This allows us to establish the sampling properties of the resulting estimate. We first establish the rate of convergence of the resulting estimate. With proper choices of penalty functions and regularization parameters, we then establish the asymptotic normality of the resulting estimate, and further demonstrate that the proposed procedures perform as well as an oracle procedure. Semiparametric generalized likelihood ratio test is proposed to select significant variables in the nonparametric component. We investigate the asymptotic behavior of the proposed test and demonstrate its limiting null distribution follows a chi-squared distribution, which is independent of the nuisance parameters. Extensive Monte Carlo simulation studies are conducted to examine the finite sample performance of the proposed variable selection procedures.

doi:10.1214/009053607000000604

PMCID: PMC2605629
PMID: 19122808

Nonconcave penalized likelihood; SCAD; efficient score; local linear regression; partially linear model; varying coefficient models

A sufficient cause interaction between two exposures signals the presence of individuals for whom the outcome would occur only under certain values of the two exposures. When the outcome is dichotomous and all exposures are categorical, then under certain no confounding assumptions, empirical conditions for sufficient cause interactions can be constructed based on the sign of linear contrasts of conditional outcome probabilities between differently exposed subgroups, given confounders. It is argued that logistic regression models are unsatisfactory for evaluating such contrasts, and that Bernoulli regression models with linear link are prone to misspecification. We therefore develop semiparametric tests for sufficient cause interactions under models which postulate probability contrasts in terms of a finite-dimensional parameter, but which are otherwise unspecified. Estimation is often not feasible in these models because it would require nonparametric estimation of auxiliary conditional expectations given high-dimensional variables. We therefore develop ‘multiply robust tests’ under a union model that assumes at least one of several working submodels holds. In the special case of a randomized experiment or a family-based genetic study in which the joint exposure distribution is known by design or Mendelian inheritance, the procedure leads to asymptotically distribution-free tests of the null hypothesis of no sufficient cause interaction.

doi:10.1111/j.1467-9868.2011.01011.x

PMCID: PMC4280915
PMID: 25558182

Double robustness; Effect modification; Gene-environment interaction; Gene-gene interaction; Semiparametric inference; Sufficient cause; Synergism

The current goal of initial antiretroviral (ARV) therapy is suppression of plasma human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 RNA levels to below 200 copies per milliliter. A proportion of HIV-infected patients who initiate antiretroviral therapy in clinical practice or antiretroviral clinical trials either fail to suppress HIV-1 RNA or have HIV-1 RNA levels rebound on therapy. Frequently, these patients have sustained CD4 cell counts responses and limited or no clinical symptoms and, therefore, have potentially limited indications for altering therapy which they may be tolerating well despite increased viral replication. On the other hand, increased viral replication on therapy leads to selection of resistance mutations to the antiretroviral agents comprising their therapy and potentially cross-resistance to other agents in the same class decreasing the likelihood of response to subsequent antiretroviral therapy. The optimal time to switch antiretroviral therapy to ensure sustained virologic suppression and prevent clinical events in patients who have rebound in their HIV-1 RNA, yet are stable, is not known. Randomized clinical trials to compare early versus delayed switching have been difficult to design and more difficult to enroll. In some clinical trials, such as the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Study A5095, patients randomized to initial antiretroviral treatment combinations, who fail to suppress HIV-1 RNA or have a rebound of HIV-1 RNA on therapy are allowed to switch from the initial ARV regimen to a new regimen, based on clinician and patient decisions. We delineate a statistical framework to estimate the effect of early versus late regimen change using data from ACTG A5095 in the context of two-stage designs.

In causal inference, a large class of doubly robust estimators are derived through semiparametric theory with applications to missing data problems. This class of estimators is motivated through geometric arguments and relies on large samples for good performance. By now, several authors have noted that a doubly robust estimator may be suboptimal when the outcome model is misspecified even if it is semiparametric efficient when the outcome regression model is correctly specified. Through auxiliary variables, two-stage designs, and within the contextual backdrop of our scientific problem and clinical study, we propose improved doubly robust, locally efficient estimators of a population mean and average causal effect for early versus delayed switching to second-line ARV treatment regimens. Our analysis of the ACTG A5095 data further demonstrates how methods that use auxiliary variables can improve over methods that ignore them. Using the methods developed here, we conclude that patients who switch within 8 weeks of virologic failure have better clinical outcomes, on average, than patients who delay switching to a new second-line ARV regimen after failing on the initial regimen. Ordinary statistical methods fail to find such differences. This article has online supplementary material.

doi:10.1080/01621459.2011.646932

PMCID: PMC3545451
PMID: 23329858

Causal inference; Double robustness; Longitudinal data analysis; Missing data; Rubin causal model; Semiparametric efficient estimation

For nonnegative measurements such as income or sick days, zero counts often have special status. Furthermore, the incidence of zero counts is often greater than expected for the Poisson model. This article considers a doubly semiparametric zero-inflated Poisson model to fit data of this type, which assumes two partially linear link functions in both the mean of the Poisson component and the probability of zero. We study a sieve maximum likelihood estimator for both the regression parameters and the nonparametric functions. We show, under routine conditions, that the estimators are strongly consistent. Moreover, the parameter estimators are asymptotically normal and first-order efficient, while the nonparametric components achieve the optimal convergence rates. Simulation studies suggest that the extra flexibility inherent from the doubly semiparametric model is gained with little loss in statistical efficiency. We also illustrate our approach with a dataset from a public health study.

doi:10.1016/j.jmva.2010.05.003

PMCID: PMC2909790
PMID: 20671990

Asymptotic efficiency; Partly linear model; Sieve maximum likelihood estimator; Zero-inflated Poisson model

There is an active debate in the literature on censored data about the relative performance of model based maximum likelihood estimators, IPCW-estimators, and a variety of double robust semiparametric efficient estimators. Kang and Schafer (2007) demonstrate the fragility of double robust and IPCW-estimators in a simulation study with positivity violations. They focus on a simple missing data problem with covariates where one desires to estimate the mean of an outcome that is subject to missingness. Responses by Robins, et al. (2007), Tsiatis and Davidian (2007), Tan (2007) and Ridgeway and McCaffrey (2007) further explore the challenges faced by double robust estimators and offer suggestions for improving their stability. In this article, we join the debate by presenting targeted maximum likelihood estimators (TMLEs). We demonstrate that TMLEs that guarantee that the parametric submodel employed by the TMLE procedure respects the global bounds on the continuous outcomes, are especially suitable for dealing with positivity violations because in addition to being double robust and semiparametric efficient, they are substitution estimators. We demonstrate the practical performance of TMLEs relative to other estimators in the simulations designed by Kang and Schafer (2007) and in modified simulations with even greater estimation challenges.

doi:10.2202/1557-4679.1308

PMCID: PMC3173607
PMID: 21931570

censored data; collaborative double robustness; collaborative targeted maximum likelihood estimation; double robust; estimator selection; inverse probability of censoring weighting; locally efficient estimation; maximum likelihood estimation; semiparametric model; targeted maximum likelihood estimation; targeted minimum loss based estimation; targeted nuisance parameter estimator selection

SUMMARY

We consider a class of semiparametric normal transformation models for right censored bivariate failure times. Nonparametric hazard rate models are transformed to a standard normal model and a joint normal distribution is assumed for the bivariate vector of transformed variates. A semiparametric maximum likelihood estimation procedure is developed for estimating the marginal survival distribution and the pairwise correlation parameters. This produces an efficient estimator of the correlation parameter of the semiparametric normal transformation model, which characterizes the bivariate dependence of bivariate survival outcomes. In addition, a simple positive-mass-redistribution algorithm can be used to implement the estimation procedures. Since the likelihood function involves infinite-dimensional parameters, the empirical process theory is utilized to study the asymptotic properties of the proposed estimators, which are shown to be consistent, asymptotically normal and semiparametric efficient. A simple estimator for the variance of the estimates is also derived. The finite sample performance is evaluated via extensive simulations.

doi:10.1093/biomet/asn049

PMCID: PMC2600666
PMID: 19079778

Asymptotic normality; Bivariate failure time; Consistency; Semiparametric efficiency; Semiparametric maximum likelihood estimate; Semiparametric normal transformation

A primary focus of an increasing number of scientific studies is to determine whether two exposures interact in the effect that they produce on an outcome of interest. Interaction is commonly assessed by fitting regression models in which the linear predictor includes the product between those exposures. When the main interest lies in the interaction, this approach is not entirely satisfactory because it is prone to (possibly severe) bias when the main exposure effects or the association between outcome and extraneous factors are misspecified. In this article, we therefore consider conditional mean models with identity or log link which postulate the statistical interaction in terms of a finite-dimensional parameter, but which are otherwise unspecified. We show that estimation of the interaction parameter is often not feasible in this model because it would require nonparametric estimation of auxiliary conditional expectations given high-dimensional variables. We thus consider ‘multiply robust estimation’ under a union model that assumes at least one of several working submodels holds. Our approach is novel in that it makes use of information on the joint distribution of the exposures conditional on the extraneous factors in making inferences about the interaction parameter of interest. In the special case of a randomized trial or a family-based genetic study in which the joint exposure distribution is known by design or by Mendelian inheritance, the resulting multiply robust procedure leads to asymptotically distribution-free tests of the null hypothesis of no interaction on an additive scale. We illustrate the methods via simulation and the analysis of a randomized follow-up study.

doi:10.1198/016214508000001084

PMCID: PMC3097121
PMID: 21603124

Double robustness; Gene-environment interaction; Gene-gene interaction; Longitudinal data; Semiparametric inference

Most statistical methods for microarray data analysis consider one gene at a time, and they may miss subtle changes at the single gene level. This limitation may be overcome by considering a set of genes simultaneously where the gene sets are derived from prior biological knowledge. We call a pathway as a predefined set of genes that serve a particular cellular or physiological function. Limited work has been done in the regression settings to study the effects of clinical covariates and expression levels of genes in a pathway on a continuous clinical outcome. A semiparametric regression approach for identifying pathways related to a continuous outcome was proposed by Liu et al. (2007), who demonstrated the connection between a least squares kernel machine for nonparametric pathway effect and a restricted maximum likelihood (REML) for variance components. However, the asymptotic properties on a semiparametric regression for identifying pathway have never been studied. In this paper, we study the asymptotic properties of the parameter estimates on semiparametric regression and compare Liu et al.’s REML with our REML obtained from a profile likelihood. We prove that both approaches provide consistent estimators, have
n convergence rate under regularity conditions, and have either an asymptotically normal distribution or a mixture of normal distributions. However, the estimators based on our REML obtained from a profile likelihood have a theoretically smaller mean squared error than those of Liu et al.’s REML. Simulation study supports this theoretical result. A profile restricted likelihood ratio test is also provided for the non-standard testing problem. We apply our approach to a type II diabetes data set (Mootha et al., 2003).

PMCID: PMC3763850
PMID: 24014933

Gaussian random process; Kernel machine; Mixed model; Pathway analysis; Profile likelihood; Restricted maximum likelihood

Missing data are common in medical and social science studies and often pose a serious challenge in data analysis. Multiple imputation methods are popular and natural tools for handling missing data, replacing each missing value with a set of plausible values that represent the uncertainty about the underlying values. We consider a case of missing at random (MAR) and investigate the estimation of the marginal mean of an outcome variable in the presence of missing values when a set of fully observed covariates is available. We propose a new nonparametric multiple imputation (MI) approach that uses two working models to achieve dimension reduction and define the imputing sets for the missing observations. Compared with existing nonparametric imputation procedures, our approach can better handle covariates of high dimension, and is doubly robust in the sense that the resulting estimator remains consistent if either of the working models is correctly specified. Compared with existing doubly robust methods, our nonparametric MI approach is more robust to the misspecification of both working models; it also avoids the use of inverse-weighting and hence is less sensitive to missing probabilities that are close to 1. We propose a sensitivity analysis for evaluating the validity of the working models, allowing investigators to choose the optimal weights so that the resulting estimator relies either completely or more heavily on the working model that is likely to be correctly specified and achieves improved efficiency. We investigate the asymptotic properties of the proposed estimator, and perform simulation studies to show that the proposed method compares favorably with some existing methods in finite samples. The proposed method is further illustrated using data from a colorectal adenoma study.

PMCID: PMC3280694
PMID: 22347786

Doubly robust; Missing at random; Multiple imputation; Nearest neighbor; Nonparametric imputation; Sensitivity analysis

The inverse of the nonparametric information operator is key to finding doubly robust estimators and the semiparametric efficient estimator in missing data problems. It is known that no closed-form expression for the inverse of the nonparametric information operator exists when missing data form nonmonotone patterns. Neumann series is usually applied to approximate the inverse. However, Neumann series approximation is only known to converge in L2 norm, which is not sufficient for establishing statistical properties of the estimators yielded from the approximation. In this article, we show that L∞ convergence of the Neumann series approximations to the inverse of the non-parametric information operator and to the efficient scores in missing data problems can be obtained under very simple conditions. This paves the way to the study of the asymptotic properties of the doubly robust estimators and the locally semiparametric efficient estimator in those difficult situations.

doi:10.1016/j.spl.2010.01.021

PMCID: PMC2850222
PMID: 20383317

Auxiliary information; Induction; Rate of convergence; Weighted estimating equation

Semiparametric linear transformation models have received much attention due to its high flexibility in modeling survival data. A useful estimating equation procedure was recently proposed by Chen et al. (2002) for linear transformation models to jointly estimate parametric and nonparametric terms. They showed that this procedure can yield a consistent and robust estimator. However, the problem of variable selection for linear transformation models is less studied, partially because a convenient loss function is not readily available under this context. In this paper, we propose a simple yet powerful approach to achieve both sparse and consistent estimation for linear transformation models. The main idea is to derive a profiled score from the estimating equation of Chen et al. (2002), construct a loss function based on the profile scored and its variance, and then minimize the loss subject to some shrinkage penalty. Under regularity conditions, we have shown that the resulting estimator is consistent for both model estimation and variable selection. Furthermore, the estimated parametric terms are asymptotically normal and can achieve higher efficiency than that yielded from the estimation equations. For computation, we suggest a one-step approximation algorithm which can take advantage of the LARS and build the entire solution path efficiently. Performance of the new procedure is illustrated through numerous simulations and real examples including one microarray data.

doi:10.1016/j.jmva.2010.01.015

PMCID: PMC2869045
PMID: 20473356

Censored survival data; Linear transformation models; LARS; Shrinkage; Variable selection

The complexity of semiparametric models poses new challenges to statistical inference and model selection that frequently arise from real applications. In this work, we propose new estimation and variable selection procedures for the semiparametric varying-coefficient partially linear model. We first study quantile regression estimates for the nonparametric varying-coefficient functions and the parametric regression coefficients. To achieve nice efficiency properties, we further develop a semiparametric composite quantile regression procedure. We establish the asymptotic normality of proposed estimators for both the parametric and nonparametric parts and show that the estimators achieve the best convergence rate. Moreover, we show that the proposed method is much more efficient than the least-squares-based method for many non-normal errors and that it only loses a small amount of efficiency for normal errors. In addition, it is shown that the loss in efficiency is at most 11.1% for estimating varying coefficient functions and is no greater than 13.6% for estimating parametric components. To achieve sparsity with high-dimensional covariates, we propose adaptive penalization methods for variable selection in the semiparametric varying-coefficient partially linear model and prove that the methods possess the oracle property. Extensive Monte Carlo simulation studies are conducted to examine the finite-sample performance of the proposed procedures. Finally, we apply the new methods to analyze the plasma beta-carotene level data.

doi:10.1214/10-AOS842

PMCID: PMC3109949
PMID: 21666869

Asymptotic relative efficiency; composite quantile regression; semiparametric varying-coefficient partially linear model; oracle properties; variable selection

Rationale and Objectives

Semiparametric methods provide smooth and continuous receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve fits to ordinal test results and require only that the data follow some unknown monotonic transformation of the model's assumed distributions. The quantitative relationship between cutoff settings or individual test-result values on the data scale and points on the estimated ROC curve is lost in this procedure, however. To recover that relationship in a principled way, we propose a new algorithm for “proper” ROC curves and illustrate it by use of the proper binormal model.

Materials and Methods

Several authors have proposed the use of multinomial distributions to fit semiparametric ROC curves by maximum-likelihood estimation. The resulting approach requires nuisance parameters that specify interval probabilities associated with the data, which are used subsequently as a basis for estimating values of the curve parameters of primary interest. In the method described here, we employ those “nuisance” parameters to recover the relationship between any ordinal test-result scale and true-positive fraction, false-positive fraction, and likelihood ratio. Computer simulations based on the proper binormal model were used to evaluate our approach in estimating those relationships and to assess the coverage of its confidence intervals for realistically sized datasets.

Results

In our simulations, the method reliably estimated simple relationships between test-result values and the several ROC quantities.

Conclusion

The proposed approach provides an effective and reliable semiparametric method with which to estimate the relationship between cutoff settings or individual test-result values and corresponding points on the ROC curve.

doi:10.1016/j.acra.2011.08.003

PMCID: PMC3368704
PMID: 22055797

Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis; proper binormal model; likelihood ratio; test-result scale; maximum likelihood estimation (MLE)

Due to the need to evaluate the effectiveness of community-based programs in practice, there is substantial interest in methods to estimate the causal effects of community-level treatments or exposures on individual level outcomes. The challenge one is confronted with is that different communities have different environmental factors affecting the individual outcomes, and all individuals in a community share the same environment and intervention. In practice, data are often available from only a small number of communities, making it difficult if not impossible to adjust for these environmental confounders. In this paper we consider an extreme version of this dilemma, in which two communities each receives a different level of the intervention, and covariates and outcomes are measured on a random sample of independent individuals from each of the two populations; the results presented can be straightforwardly generalized to settings in which more than two communities are sampled. We address the question of what conditions are needed to estimate the causal effect of the intervention, defined in terms of an ideal experiment in which the exposed level of the intervention is assigned to both communities and individual outcomes are measured in the combined population, and then the clock is turned back and a control level of the intervention is assigned to both communities and individual outcomes are measured in the combined population. We refer to the difference in the expectation of these outcomes as the marginal (overall) treatment effect. We also discuss conditions needed for estimation of the treatment effect on the treated community. We apply a nonparametric structural equation model to define these causal effects and to establish conditions under which they are identified. These identifiability conditions provide guidance for the design of studies to investigate community level causal effects and for assessing the validity of causal interpretations when data are only available from a few communities. When the identifiability conditions fail to hold, the proposed statistical parameters still provide nonparametric treatment effect measures (albeit non-causal) whose statistical interpretations do not depend on model specifications. In addition, we study the use of a matched cohort sampling design in which the units of different communities are matched on individual factors. Finally, we provide semiparametric efficient and doubly robust targeted MLE estimators of the community level causal effect based on i.i.d. sampling and matched cohort sampling.

doi:10.1515/jci-2012-0011

PMCID: PMC4254657
PMID: 25485209

causal effect; causal effect among the treated; community-based intervention; efficient influence curve; environmental confounding

We study a class of semiparametric skewed distributions arising when the sample selection process produces non-randomly sampled observations. Based on semiparametric theory and taking into account the symmetric nature of the population distribution, we propose both consistent estimators, i.e. robust to model mis-specification, and efficient estimators, i.e. reaching the minimum possible estimation variance, of the location of the symmetric population. We demonstrate the theoretical properties of our estimators through asymptotic analysis and assess their finite sample performance through simulations. We also implement our methodology on a real data example of ambulatory expenditures to illustrate the applicability of the estimators in practice.

doi:10.1002/sta4.2

PMCID: PMC3922234
PMID: 24532858

robustness; selection bias; semiparametric model; skewness; skew-symmetric distribution

We consider tests of hypotheses when the parameters are not identifiable under the null in semiparametric models, where regularity conditions for profile likelihood theory fail. Exponential average tests based on integrated profile likelihood are constructed and shown to be asymptotically optimal under a weighted average power criterion with respect to a prior on the nonidentifiable aspect of the model. These results extend existing results for parametric models, which involve more restrictive assumptions on the form of the alternative than do our results. Moreover, the proposed tests accommodate models with infinite dimensional nuisance parameters which either may not be identifiable or may not be estimable at the usual parametric rate. Examples include tests of the presence of a change-point in the Cox model with current status data and tests of regression parameters in odds-rate models with right censored data. Optimal tests have not previously been studied for these scenarios. We study the asymptotic distribution of the proposed tests under the null, fixed contiguous alternatives and random contiguous alternatives. We also propose a weighted bootstrap procedure for computing the critical values of the test statistics. The optimal tests perform well in simulation studies, where they may exhibit improved power over alternative tests.

PMCID: PMC2864541
PMID: 20454527

Change-point models; contiguous alternative; empirical processes; exponential average test; nonstandard testing problem; odds-rate models; optimal test; power; profile likelihood

In many semiparametric models that are parameterized by two types of parameters – a Euclidean parameter of interest and an infinite-dimensional nuisance parameter, the two parameters are bundled together, i.e., the nuisance parameter is an unknown function that contains the parameter of interest as part of its argument. For example, in a linear regression model for censored survival data, the unspecified error distribution function involves the regression coefficients. Motivated by developing an efficient estimating method for the regression parameters, we propose a general sieve M-theorem for bundled parameters and apply the theorem to deriving the asymptotic theory for the sieve maximum likelihood estimation in the linear regression model for censored survival data. The numerical implementation of the proposed estimating method can be achieved through the conventional gradient-based search algorithms such as the Newton-Raphson algorithm. We show that the proposed estimator is consistent and asymptotically normal and achieves the semiparametric efficiency bound. Simulation studies demonstrate that the proposed method performs well in practical settings and yields more efficient estimates than existing estimating equation based methods. Illustration with a real data example is also provided.

PMCID: PMC3890689
PMID: 24436500

Accelerated failure time model; B-spline; bundled parameters; efficient score function; semiparametric efficiency; sieve maximum likelihood estimation

Summary

Despite modern effective HIV treatment, hepatitis C virus (HCV) co-infection is associated with a high risk of progression to end-stage liver disease (ESLD) which has emerged as the primary cause of death in this population. Clinical interest lies in determining the impact of clearance of HCV on risk for ESLD. In this case study, we examine whether HCV clearance affects risk of ESLD using data from the multicenter Canadian Co-infection Cohort Study. Complications in this survival analysis arise from the time-dependent nature of the data, the presence of baseline confounders, loss to follow-up, and confounders that change over time, all of which can obscure the causal effect of interest. Additional challenges included non-censoring variable missingness and event sparsity.

In order to efficiently estimate the ESLD-free survival probabilities under a specific history of HCV clearance, we demonstrate the doubly-robust and semiparametric efficient method of Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimation (TMLE). Marginal structural models (MSM) can be used to model the effect of viral clearance (expressed as a hazard ratio) on ESLD-free survival and we demonstrate a way to estimate the parameters of a logistic model for the hazard function with TMLE. We show the theoretical derivation of the efficient influence curves for the parameters of two different MSMs and how they can be used to produce variance approximations for parameter estimates. Finally, the data analysis evaluating the impact of HCV on ESLD was undertaken using multiple imputations to account for the non-monotone missing data.

doi:10.1111/biom.12105

PMCID: PMC3954273
PMID: 24571372

Double-robust; Inverse probability of treatment weighting; Kaplan-Meier; Longitudinal data; Marginal structural model; Survival analysis; Targeted maximum likelihood estimation

Summary

Model misspecification can be a concern for high-dimensional data. Nonparametric regression obviates model specification but is impeded by the curse of dimensionality. This paper focuses on the estimation of the marginal mean response when there is missingness in the response and multiple covariates are available. We propose estimating the mean response through nonparametric functional estimation, where the dimension is reduced by a parametric working index. The proposed semiparametric estimator is robust to model misspecification: it is consistent for any working index if the missing mechanism of the response is known or correctly specified up to unknown parameters; even with misspecification in the missing mechanism, it is consistent so long as the working index can recover E(Y | X), the conditional mean response given the covariates. In addition, when the missing mechanism is correctly specified, the semiparametric estimator attains the optimal efficiency if E(Y | X) is recoverable through the working index. Robustness and efficiency of the proposed estimator is further investigated by simulations. We apply the proposed method to a clinical trial for HIV.

doi:10.1093/biomet/asq005

PMCID: PMC3412576
PMID: 23049121

Dimension reduction; Inverse probability weighting; Kernel regression; Missing at random; Robustness to model misspecification

Summary

Primary analysis of case–control studies focuses on the relationship between disease D and a set of covariates of interest (Y, X). A secondary application of the case–control study, which is often invoked in modern genetic epidemiologic association studies, is to investigate the interrelationship between the covariates themselves. The task is complicated owing to the case–control sampling, where the regression of Y on X is different from what it is in the population. Previous work has assumed a parametric distribution for Y given X and derived semiparametric efficient estimation and inference without any distributional assumptions about X. We take up the issue of estimation of a regression function when Y given X follows a homoscedastic regression model, but otherwise the distribution of Y is unspecified. The semiparametric efficient approaches can be used to construct semiparametric efficient estimates, but they suffer from a lack of robustness to the assumed model for Y given X. We take an entirely different approach. We show how to estimate the regression parameters consistently even if the assumed model for Y given X is incorrect, and thus the estimates are model robust. For this we make the assumption that the disease rate is known or well estimated. The assumption can be dropped when the disease is rare, which is typically so for most case–control studies, and the estimation algorithm simplifies. Simulations and empirical examples are used to illustrate the approach.

doi:10.1111/j.1467-9868.2012.01052.x

PMCID: PMC3639015
PMID: 23637568

Biased samples; Homoscedastic regression; Secondary data; Secondary phenotypes; Semiparametric inference; Two-stage samples

The cross-odds ratio is defined as the ratio of the conditional odds of the occurrence of one cause-specific event for one subject given the occurrence of the same or a different cause-specific event for another subject in the same cluster over the unconditional odds of occurrence of the cause-specific event. It is a measure of the association between the correlated cause-specific failure times within a cluster. The joint cumulative incidence function can be expressed as a function of the marginal cumulative incidence functions and the cross-odds ratio. Assuming that the marginal cumulative incidence functions follow a generalized semiparametric model, this paper studies the parametric regression modeling of the cross-odds ratio. A set of estimating equations are proposed for the unknown parameters and the asymptotic properties of the estimators are explored. Non-parametric estimation of the cross-odds ratio is also discussed. The proposed procedures are applied to the Danish twin data to model the associations between twins in their times to natural menopause and to investigate whether the association differs among monozygotic and dizygotic twins and how these associations have changed over time.

doi:10.1093/biostatistics/kxs017

PMCID: PMC3440240
PMID: 22696688

Binomial modeling; Correlated cause-specific failure times; Danish twin data; Estimating equation; Generalized semiparametric additive model; Inverse censoring probability weighting; Joint cumulative incidence function; Large sample properties; Marginal cumulative incidence function; Parametric regression model

Given causal graph assumptions, intervention-specific counterfactual distributions of the data can be defined by the so called G-computation formula, which is obtained by carrying out these interventions on the likelihood of the data factorized according to the causal graph. The obtained G-computation formula represents the counterfactual distribution the data would have had if this intervention would have been enforced on the system generating the data. A causal effect of interest can now be defined as some difference between these counterfactual distributions indexed by different interventions. For example, the interventions can represent static treatment regimens or individualized treatment rules that assign treatment in response to time-dependent covariates, and the causal effects could be defined in terms of features of the mean of the treatment-regimen specific counterfactual outcome of interest as a function of the corresponding treatment regimens. Such features could be defined nonparametrically in terms of so called (nonparametric) marginal structural models for static or individualized treatment rules, whose parameters can be thought of as (smooth) summary measures of differences between the treatment regimen specific counterfactual distributions.

In this article, we develop a particular targeted maximum likelihood estimator of causal effects of multiple time point interventions. This involves the use of loss-based super-learning to obtain an initial estimate of the unknown factors of the G-computation formula, and subsequently, applying a target-parameter specific optimal fluctuation function (least favorable parametric submodel) to each estimated factor, estimating the fluctuation parameter(s) with maximum likelihood estimation, and iterating this updating step of the initial factor till convergence. This iterative targeted maximum likelihood updating step makes the resulting estimator of the causal effect double robust in the sense that it is consistent if either the initial estimator is consistent, or the estimator of the optimal fluctuation function is consistent. The optimal fluctuation function is correctly specified if the conditional distributions of the nodes in the causal graph one intervenes upon are correctly specified. The latter conditional distributions often comprise the so called treatment and censoring mechanism. Selection among different targeted maximum likelihood estimators (e.g., indexed by different initial estimators) can be based on loss-based cross-validation such as likelihood based cross-validation or cross-validation based on another appropriate loss function for the distribution of the data. Some specific loss functions are mentioned in this article.

Subsequently, a variety of interesting observations about this targeted maximum likelihood estimation procedure are made. This article provides the basis for the subsequent companion Part II-article in which concrete demonstrations for the implementation of the targeted MLE in complex causal effect estimation problems are provided.

doi:10.2202/1557-4679.1211

PMCID: PMC3126670
PMID: 20737021

causal effect; causal graph; censored data; cross-validation; collaborative double robust; double robust; dynamic treatment regimens; efficient influence curve; estimating function; estimator selection; locally efficient; loss function; marginal structural models for dynamic treatments; maximum likelihood estimation; model selection; pathwise derivative; randomized controlled trials; sieve; super-learning; targeted maximum likelihood estimation

In longitudinal and repeated measures data analysis, often the goal is to determine the effect of a treatment or aspect on a particular outcome (e.g., disease progression). We consider a semiparametric repeated measures regression model, where the parametric component models effect of the variable of interest and any modification by other covariates. The expectation of this parametric component over the other covariates is a measure of variable importance. Here, we present a targeted maximum likelihood estimator of the finite dimensional regression parameter, which is easily estimated using standard software for generalized estimating equations.

The targeted maximum likelihood method provides double robust and locally efficient estimates of the variable importance parameters and inference based on the influence curve. We demonstrate these properties through simulation under correct and incorrect model specification, and apply our method in practice to estimating the activity of transcription factor (TF) over cell cycle in yeast. We specifically target the importance of SWI4, SWI6, MBP1, MCM1, ACE2, FKH2, NDD1, and SWI5.

The semiparametric model allows us to determine the importance of a TF at specific time points by specifying time indicators as potential effect modifiers of the TF. Our results are promising, showing significant importance trends during the expected time periods. This methodology can also be used as a variable importance analysis tool to assess the effect of a large number of variables such as gene expressions or single nucleotide polymorphisms.

doi:10.2202/1544-6115.1553

PMCID: PMC3122882
PMID: 21291412

targeted maximum likelihood; semiparametric; repeated measures; longitudinal; transcription factors

We consider nonparametric regression of a scalar outcome on a covariate when the outcome is missing at random (MAR) given the covariate and other observed auxiliary variables. We propose a class of augmented inverse probability weighted (AIPW) kernel estimating equations for nonparametric regression under MAR. We show that AIPW kernel estimators are consistent when the probability that the outcome is observed, that is, the selection probability, is either known by design or estimated under a correctly specified model. In addition, we show that a specific AIPW kernel estimator in our class that employs the fitted values from a model for the conditional mean of the outcome given covariates and auxiliaries is double-robust, that is, it remains consistent if this model is correctly specified even if the selection probabilities are modeled or specified incorrectly. Furthermore, when both models happen to be right, this double-robust estimator attains the smallest possible asymptotic variance of all AIPW kernel estimators and maximally extracts the information in the auxiliary variables. We also describe a simple correction to the AIPW kernel estimating equations that while preserving double-robustness it ensures efficiency improvement over nonaugmented IPW estimation when the selection model is correctly specified regardless of the validity of the second model used in the augmentation term. We perform simulations to evaluate the finite sample performance of the proposed estimators, and apply the methods to the analysis of the AIDS Costs and Services Utilization Survey data. Technical proofs are available online.

doi:10.1198/jasa.2010.tm08463

PMCID: PMC3491912
PMID: 23144520

Asymptotics; Augmented kernel estimating equations; Double robustness; Efficiency; Inverse probability weighted kernel estimating equations; Kernel smoothing