Causal multimediation analysis (i.e. the causal mediation analysis with multiple mediators) is critical for understanding the effectiveness of interventions, especially in medical research. Deriving the path-specific effects of exposure on the outcome through a set of mediators can provide detail about the causal mechanism of interest However, existing models are usually restricted to partial decomposition, which can only be used to evaluate the cumulative effect of several paths. In genetics studies, partial decomposition fails to reflect the real causal effects mediated by genes, especially in complex gene regulatory networks. Moreover, because of the lack of a generalized identification procedure, the current multimediation analysis cannot be applied to the estimation of path-specific effects for any number of mediators. In this study, we derive the interventional analogs of path-specific effect for complete decomposition to address the difficulty of nonidentifiability. On the basis of two survival models of the outcome, we derive the generalized analytic forms for interventional analogs of path-specific effects by assuming the normal distributions of mediators. We apply the new methodology to investigate the causal mechanism of signature genes in lung cancer based on the cell cycle pathway, and the results clarify the gene pathway in cancer.
- Causal multimediation analysis
- complete effect decomposition
- interventional approach
- path-specific effect
- survival analysis