A semiparametric modeling approach for analyzing clinical biomarkers restricted to limits of detection

Pharm Stat. 2021 Nov;20(6):1061-1073. doi: 10.1002/pst.2125. Epub 2021 Apr 14.


Before biomarkers can be used in clinical trials or patients' management, the laboratory assays that measure their levels have to go through development and analytical validation. One of the most critical performance metrics for validation of any assay is related to the minimum amount of values that can be detected and any value below this limit is referred to as below the limit of detection (LOD). Most of the existing approaches that model such biomarkers, restricted by LOD, are parametric in nature. These parametric models, however, heavily depend on the distributional assumptions, and can result in loss of precision under the model or the distributional misspecifications. Using an example from a prostate cancer clinical trial, we show how a critical relationship between serum androgen biomarker and a prognostic factor of overall survival is completely missed by the widely used parametric Tobit model. Motivated by this example, we implement a semiparametric approach, through a pseudo-value technique, that effectively captures the important relationship between the LOD restricted serum androgen and the prognostic factor. Our simulations show that the pseudo-value based semiparametric model outperforms a commonly used parametric model for modeling below LOD biomarkers by having lower mean square errors of estimation.

Keywords: biomarkers; censored regression; limit of detection; pseudo-value; semi-parametric model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Limit of Detection
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical*


  • Biomarkers