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Boosting multi-state models. (English) Zbl 1356.65030

Summary: One important goal in multi-state modelling is to explore information about conditional transition-type-specific hazard rate functions by estimating influencing effects of explanatory variables. This may be performed using single transition-type-specific models if these covariate effects are assumed to be different across transition-types. To investigate whether this assumption holds or whether one of the effects is equal across several transition-types (cross-transition-type effect), a combined model has to be applied, for instance with the use of a stratified partial likelihood formulation. Here, prior knowledge about the underlying covariate effect mechanisms is often sparse, especially about ineffectivenesses of transition-type-specific or cross-transition-type effects. As a consequence, data-driven variable selection is an important task: a large number of estimable effects has to be taken into account if joint modelling of all transition-types is performed. A related but subsequent task is model choice: is an effect satisfactory estimated assuming linearity, or is the true underlying nature strongly deviating from linearity? This article introduces component-wise Functional Gradient Descent Boosting (short boosting) for multi-state models, an approach performing unsupervised variable selection and model choice simultaneously within a single estimation run. We demonstrate that features and advantages in the application of boosting introduced and illustrated in classical regression scenarios remain present in the transfer to multi-state models. As a consequence, boosting provides an effective means to answer questions about ineffectiveness and non-linearity of single transition-type-specific or cross-transition-type effects.

MSC:

65C60 Computational problems in statistics (MSC2010)
62-04 Software, source code, etc. for problems pertaining to statistics
62P10 Applications of statistics to biology and medical sciences; meta analysis
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