skip to main content

Title: Semiparametric estimation of structural nested mean models with irregularly spaced longitudinal observations

Structural nested mean models (SNMMs) are useful for causal inference of treatment effects in longitudinal observational studies. Most existing works assume that the data are collected at prefixed time points for all subjects, which, however, may be restrictive in practice. To deal with irregularly spaced observations, we assume a class of continuous‐time SNMMs and a martingale condition of no unmeasured confounding (NUC) to identify the causal parameters. We develop the semiparametric efficiency theory and locally efficient estimators for continuous‐time SNMMs. This task is nontrivial due to the restrictions from the NUC assumption imposed on the SNMM parameter. In the presence of ignorable censoring, we show that the complete‐case estimator is optimal among a class of weighting estimators including the inverse probability of censoring weighting estimator, and it achieves a double robustness feature in that it is consistent if at least one of the models for the potential outcome mean function and the treatment process is correctly specified. The new framework allows us to conduct causal analysis respecting the underlying continuous‐time nature of data processes. The simulation study shows that the proposed estimator outperforms existing approaches. We estimate the effect of time to initiate highly active antiretroviral therapy on the CD4 count at year 2 from the observational Acute Infection and Early Disease Research Program database.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X Size: p. 937-949
["p. 937-949"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Summary Structural failure time models are causal models for estimating the effect of time-varying treatments on a survival outcome. G-estimation and artificial censoring have been proposed for estimating the model parameters in the presence of time-dependent confounding and administrative censoring. However, most existing methods require manually pre-processing data into regularly spaced data, which may invalidate the subsequent causal analysis. Moreover, the computation and inference are challenging due to the nonsmoothness of artificial censoring. We propose a class of continuous-time structural failure time models that respects the continuous-time nature of the underlying data processes. Under a martingale condition of no unmeasured confounding, we show that the model parameters are identifiable from a potentially infinite number of estimating equations. Using the semiparametric efficiency theory, we derive the first semiparametric doubly robust estimators, which are consistent if the model for the treatment process or the failure time model, but not necessarily both, is correctly specified. Moreover, we propose using inverse probability of censoring weighting to deal with dependent censoring. In contrast to artificial censoring, our weighting strategy does not introduce nonsmoothness in estimation and ensures that resampling methods can be used for inference. 
    more » « less
  2. Summary

    Comparative effectiveness research often involves evaluating the differences in the risks of an event of interest between two or more treatments using observational data. Often, the post‐treatment outcome of interest is whether the event happens within a pre‐specified time window, which leads to a binary outcome. One source of bias for estimating the causal treatment effect is the presence of confounders, which are usually controlled using propensity score‐based methods. An additional source of bias is right‐censoring, which occurs when the information on the outcome of interest is not completely available due to dropout, study termination, or treatment switch before the event of interest. We propose an inverse probability weighted regression‐based estimator that can simultaneously handle both confounding and right‐censoring, calling the method CIPWR, with the letter C highlighting the censoring component. CIPWR estimates the average treatment effects by averaging the predicted outcomes obtained from a logistic regression model that is fitted using a weighted score function. The CIPWR estimator has a double robustness property such that estimation consistency can be achieved when either the model for the outcome or the models for both treatment and censoring are correctly specified. We establish the asymptotic properties of the CIPWR estimator for conducting inference, and compare its finite sample performance with that of several alternatives through simulation studies. The methods under comparison are applied to a cohort of prostate cancer patients from an insurance claims database for comparing the adverse effects of four candidate drugs for advanced stage prostate cancer.

    more » « less
  3. Summary

    Recently personalized medicine and dynamic treatment regimes have drawn considerable attention. Dynamic treatment regimes are rules that govern the treatment of subjects depending on their intermediate responses or covariates. Two-stage randomization is a useful set-up to gather data for making inference on such regimes. Meanwhile, the number of clinical trials involving competing risk censoring has risen, where subjects in a study are exposed to more than one possible failure and the specific event of interest may not be observed because of competing events. We aim to compare several treatment regimes from a two-stage randomized trial on survival outcomes that are subject to competing risk censoring. The cumulative incidence function (CIF) has been widely used to quantify the cumulative probability of occurrence of the target event over time. However, if we use only the data from those subjects who have followed a specific treatment regime to estimate the CIF, the resulting estimator may be biased. Hence, we propose alternative non-parametric estimators for the CIF by using inverse probability weighting, and we provide inference procedures including procedures to compare the CIFs from two treatment regimes. We show the practicality and advantages of the proposed estimators through numerical studies.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Estimating population‐level effects of a vaccine is challenging because there may be interference, that is, the outcome of one individual may depend on the vaccination status of another individual. Partial interference occurs when individuals can be partitioned into groups such that interference occurs only within groups. In the absence of interference, inverse probability weighted (IPW) estimators are commonly used to draw inference about causal effects of an exposure or treatment. Tchetgen Tchetgen and VanderWeele proposed a modified IPW estimator for causal effects in the presence of partial interference. Motivated by a cholera vaccine study in Bangladesh, this paper considers an extension of the Tchetgen Tchetgen and VanderWeele IPW estimator to the setting where the outcome is subject to right censoring using inverse probability of censoring weights (IPCW). Censoring weights are estimated using proportional hazards frailty models. The large sample properties of the IPCW estimators are derived, and simulation studies are presented demonstrating the estimators' performance in finite samples. The methods are then used to analyze data from the cholera vaccine study.

    more » « less
  5. For large observational studies lacking a control group (unlike randomized controlled trials, RCT), propensity scores (PS) are often the method of choice to account for pre-treatment confounding in baseline characteristics, and thereby avoid substantial bias in treatment estimation. A vast majority of PS techniques focus on average treatment effect estimation, without any clear consensus on how to account for confounders, especially in a multiple treatment setting. Furthermore, for time-to event outcomes, the analytical framework is further complicated in presence of high censoring rates (sometimes, due to non-susceptibility of study units to a disease), imbalance between treatment groups, and clustered nature of the data (where, survival outcomes appear in groups). Motivated by a right-censored kidney transplantation dataset derived from the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), we investigate and compare two recent promising PS procedures, (a) the generalized boosted model (GBM), and (b) the covariate-balancing propensity score (CBPS), in an attempt to decouple the causal effects of treatments (here, study subgroups, such as hepatitis C virus (HCV) positive/negative donors, and positive/negative recipients) on time to death of kidney recipients due to kidney failure, post transplantation. For estimation, we employ a 2-step procedure which addresses various complexities observed in the UNOS database within a unified paradigm. First, to adjust for the large number of confounders on the multiple sub-groups, we fit multinomial PS models via procedures (a) and (b). In the next stage, the estimated PS is incorporated into the likelihood of a semi-parametric cure rate Cox proportional hazard frailty model via inverse probability of treatment weighting, adjusted for multi-center clustering and excess censoring, Our data analysis reveals a more informative and superior performance of the full model in terms of treatment effect estimation, over sub-models that relaxes the various features of the event time dataset. 
    more » « less