Ascertainment-Adjusted Maximum Likelihood Estimation for the Additive Genetic Gamma Frailty Model


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Abstract

The additive genetic gamma frailty model has been proposed for genetic linkage analysis for complex diseases to account for variable age of onset and possible covariates effects. To avoid ascertainment biases in parameter estimates, retrospective likelihood ratio tests are often used, which may result in loss of efficiency due to conditioning. This paper considers when the sibships are ascertained by having at least two affected sibs with the disease before a given age and provides two approaches for estimating the parameters in the additive gamma frailty model. One approach is based on the likelihood function conditioning on the ascertainment event, the other is based on maximizing a full ascertainment-adjusted likelihood. Explicit forms for these likelihood functions are derived. Simulation studies indicate that when the baseline hazard function can be correctly pre-specified, both approaches give accurate estimates of the model parameters. However, when the baseline hazard function has to be estimated simultaneously, only the ascertainment-adjusted likelihood method gives an unbiased estimate of the parameters. These results imply that the ascertainment-adjusted likelihood ratio test in the context of the additive genetic gamma frailty may be used for genetic linkage analysis.

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