Spatially Dependent Polya Tree Modeling for Survival Data



Summary With the proliferation of spatially oriented time-to-event data, spatial modeling in the survival context has received increased recent attention. A traditional way to capture a spatial pattern is to introduce frailty terms in the linear predictor of a semiparametric model, such as proportional hazards or accelerated failure time. We propose a new methodology to capture the spatial pattern by assuming a prior based on a mixture of spatially dependent Polya trees for the baseline survival in the proportional hazards model. Thanks to modern Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods, this approach remains computationally feasible in a fully hierarchical Bayesian framework. We compare the spatially dependent mixture of Polya trees (MPT) approach to the traditional spatial frailty approach, and illustrate the usefulness of this method with an analysis of Iowan breast cancer survival data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program of the National Cancer Institute. Our method provides better goodness of fit over the traditional alternatives as measured by log pseudo marginal likelihood (LPML), the deviance information criterion (DIC), and full sample score (FSS) statistics.