A bivariate contaminated binormal model for robust fitting of proper ROC curves to a pair of correlated, possibly degenerate, ROC datasets

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The objective was to design and implement a bivariate extension to the contaminated binormal model (CBM) to fit paired receiver operating characteristic (ROC) datasets—possibly degenerate—with proper ROC curves. Paired datasets yield two correlated ratings per case. Degenerate datasets have no interior operating points and proper ROC curves do not inappropriately cross the chance diagonal. The existing method, developed more than three decades ago utilizes a bivariate extension to the binormal model, implemented in CORROC2 software, which yields improper ROC curves and cannot fit degenerate datasets. CBM can fit proper ROC curves to unpaired (i.e., yielding one rating per case) and degenerate datasets, and there is a clear scientific need to extend it to handle paired datasets.


In CBM, nondiseased cases are modeled by a probability density function (pdf) consisting of a unit variance peak centered at zero. Diseased cases are modeled with a mixture distribution whose pdf consists of two unit variance peaks, one centered at positive μ with integrated probability α, the mixing fraction parameter, corresponding to the fraction of diseased cases where the disease was visible to the radiologist, and one centered at zero, with integrated probability (1-α), corresponding to disease that was not visible. It is shown that: (a) for nondiseased cases the bivariate extension is a unit variances bivariate normal distribution centered at (0,0) with a specified correlation ρ1; (b) for diseased cases the bivariate extension is a mixture distribution with four peaks, corresponding to disease not visible in either condition, disease visible in only one condition, contributing two peaks, and disease visible in both conditions. An expression for the likelihood function is derived. A maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) algorithm, CORCBM, was implemented in the R programming language that yields parameter estimates and the covariance matrix of the parameters, and other statistics. A limited simulation validation of the method was performed.


CORCBM and CORROC2 were applied to two datasets containing nine readers each contributing paired interpretations. CORCBM successfully fitted the data for all readers, whereas CORROC2 failed to fit a degenerate dataset. All fits were visually reasonable. All CORCBM fits were proper, whereas all CORROC2 fits were improper. CORCBM and CORROC2 were in agreement (a) in declaring only one of the nine readers as having significantly different performances in the two modalities; (b) in estimating higher correlations for diseased cases than for nondiseased ones; and (c) in finding that the intermodality correlation estimates for nondiseased cases were consistent between the two methods. All CORCBM fits yielded higher area under curve (AUC) than the CORROC2 fits, consistent with the fact that a proper ROC model like CORCBM is based on a likelihood-ratio-equivalent decision variable, and consequently yields higher performance than the binormal model-based CORROC2. The method gave satisfactory fits to four simulated datasets.


CORCBM is a robust method for fitting paired ROC datasets, always yielding proper ROC curves, and able to fit degenerate datasets.

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