Defining and Estimating Subgroup Mediation Effects with Semi-Competing Risks Data

09/30/2020 ∙ by Fei Gao, et al. ∙ 0

In many medical studies, an ultimate failure event such as death is likely to be affected by the occurrence and timing of other intermediate clinical events. Both event times are subject to censoring by loss-to-follow-up but the nonterminal event may further be censored by the occurrence of the primary outcome, but not vice versa. To study the effect of an intervention on both events, the intermediate event may be viewed as a mediator, but conventional definition of direct and indirect effects is not applicable due to semi-competing risks data structure. We define three principal strata based on whether the potential intermediate event occurs before the potential failure event, which allow proper definition of direct and indirect effects in one stratum whereas total effects are defined for all strata. We discuss the identification conditions for stratum-specific effects, and proposed a semiparametric estimator based on a multivariate logistic stratum membership model and within-stratum proportional hazards models for the event times. By treating the unobserved stratum membership as a latent variable, we propose an EM algorithm for computation. We study the asymptotic properties of the estimators by the modern empirical process theory and examine the performance of the estimators in numerical studies.

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