Scalable algorithms for semiparametric accelerated failure time models in high dimensions

Piotr M. Suder, Aaron J. Molstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Semiparametric accelerated failure time (AFT) models are a useful alternative to Cox proportional hazards models, especially when the assumption of constant hazard ratios is untenable. However, rank-based criteria for fitting AFT models are often nondifferentiable, which poses a computational challenge in high-dimensional settings. In this article, we propose a new alternating direction method of multipliers algorithm for fitting semiparametric AFT models by minimizing a penalized rank-based loss function. Our algorithm scales well in both the number of subjects and number of predictors, and can easily accommodate a wide range of popular penalties. To improve the selection of tuning parameters, we propose a new criterion which avoids some common problems in cross-validation with censored responses. Through extensive simulation studies, we show that our algorithm and software is much faster than existing methods (which can only be applied to special cases), and we show that estimators which minimize a penalized rank-based criterion often outperform alternative estimators which minimize penalized weighted least squares criteria. Application to nine cancer datasets further demonstrates that rank-based estimators of semiparametric AFT models are competitive with estimators assuming proportional hazards in high-dimensional settings, whereas weighted least squares estimators are often not. A software package implementing the algorithm, along with a set of auxiliary functions, is available for download at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-949
Number of pages17
JournalStatistics in Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Gehan estimator
  • accelerated failure time model
  • bilevel variable selection
  • convex optimization
  • semiparametrics
  • survival analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Scalable algorithms for semiparametric accelerated failure time models in high dimensions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this