Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Absolute risk regression for competing risks: interpretation, link functions, and prediction

Thomas Gerds, Thomas Scheike and Per Andersen have a new paper in Statistics in Medicine. To a certain extent this is a review paper and considers models for direct regression on the cumulative incidence function for competing risks data. Specifically models of the form where is a known link function and is the cumulative incidence function for event 1 given covariates X. The Fine-Gray model is a special case of this class of models, where a complementary log-log link is adopted. Approaches to estimation based on inverse probability of censoring weights and jackknife based pseudo-observations are considered. Model comparison based on predictive accuracy as measured through Brier score and model diagnostics based on extended models allowing time dependent covariate effects are also discussed.
The discussion gives a clear account of the various pros and cons of direct regression of the cumulative incidence functions. In particular, an obvious, although perhaps not always sufficiently emphasized issue is that if, in a model with two causes, a Fine-Gray (or other direct model) is fitted to the first cause, and another to the second cause, the resulting predictions will not necessarily have the property that an issue that is not problematic if the second cause is essentially a nuisance issue, but obviously problematic if both causes are of interest. In such cases regression of the cause-specific-hazards is preferable even if it makes interpreting the effect on the cumulative intensity functions more difficult.

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