Review and implementation of cure models based on first hitting times for Wiener processes
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The development of models and methods for cure rate estimation has recently burgeoned into an important subfield of survival analysis. Much of the literature focuses on the standard mixture model. Recently, process-based models have been suggested. We focus on several models based on first passage times for Wiener processes. Whitmore and others have studied these models in a variety of contexts. Lee and Whitmore (Stat Sci 21(4):501-513, 2006) give a comprehensive review of a variety of first hitting time models and briefly discuss their potential as cure rate models. In this paper, we study the Wiener process with negative drift as a possible cure rate model but the resulting defective inverse Gaussian model is found to provide a poor fit in some cases. Several possible modifications are then suggested, which improve the defective inverse Gaussian. These modifications include: the inverse Gaussian cure rate mixture model; a mixture of two inverse Gaussian models; incorporation of heterogeneity in the drift parameter; and the addition of a second absorbing barrier to the Wiener process, representing an immunity threshold. This class of process-based models is a useful alternative to the standard model and provides an improved fit compared to the standard model when applied to many of the datasets that we have studied. Implementation of this class of models is facilitated using expectation-maximization (EM) algorithms and variants thereof, including the gradient EM algorithm. Parameter estimates for each of these EM algorithms are given and the proposed models are applied to both real and simulated data, where they perform well.
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