Cystic fibrosis is a chronic lung disease requiring frequent lung-function monitoring to track acute respiratory events (pulmonary exacerbations). The association between lung-function trajectory and time-to-first exacerbation can be characterized using joint longitudinal-survival modeling. Joint models specified through the shared parameter framework quantify the strength of association between such outcomes but do not incorporate latent sub-populations reflective of heterogeneous disease progression. Conversely, latent class joint models explicitly postulate the existence of sub-populations but do not directly quantify the strength of association. Furthermore, choosing the optimal number of classes using established metrics like deviance information criterion is computationally intensive in complex models. To overcome these limitations, we integrate latent classes in the shared parameter joint model through a fully Bayesian approach. To choose the optimal number of classes, we construct a mixture model assuming more latent classes than present in the data, thereby asymptotically “emptying” superfluous latent classes, provided the Dirichlet prior on class proportions is sufficiently uninformative. Model properties are evaluated in simulation studies. Application to data from the US Cystic Fibrosis Registry supports the existence of three sub-populations corresponding to lung-function trajectories with high initial forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), rapid FEV1 decline, and low but steady FEV1 progression. The association between FEV1 and hazard of exacerbation was negative in each class, but magnitude varied.

Classification, clustering, Dirichlet prior, joint model, latent class model, longitudinal outcome, medical monitoring, survival outcome,
Statistical Methods in Medical Research
Department of Biostatistics

Andrinopoulou, E-R, Nasserinejad, K, Szczesniak, R, & Rizopoulos, D. (2020). Integrating latent classes in the Bayesian shared parameter joint model of longitudinal and survival outcomes. Statistical Methods in Medical Research. doi:10.1177/0962280220924680