Initiation of regular transfusion in transfusion-dependent thalassemia (TDT) is based on the assessment of clinical phenotype. Pathogenic HBB variants causing β-thalassemia are important determinants of phenotype and could be used to aid decision-making.
We investigated the association of HBB genotype with survival in a cohort study in the four thalassemia centers in Cyprus. HBB genotype was classified as severe (β0/β0 or β+/β0), moderate (β+/β+), or mild (β0/β++ or β+/β++). Risk factors for mortality were evaluated using multivariate Cox proportional- hazards regression. Of the 537 subjects who were followed for a total of 20,963 person-years, 80.4% (95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 76.4-84.7) survived to 50 years of age with increasing rates of liver-, infectionand malignancy-related deaths observed during recent follow-up. We evaluated non-modifiable risk factors and found worse outcomes associated with male sex (hazard ratio 1.9, 95% CI: 1.1-3.0, P=0.01) and milder genotype (hazard ratio 1.6, 95% CI: 1.1-2.3, P=0.02).
The effect of genotype was confirmed in a second model, which included treatment effects. Patients with a milder genotype initiated transfusion significantly later and had reduced blood requirements compared to those with moderate or severe genotypes, although pre-transfusion hemoglobin levels did not differ between genotypes.
Our results suggest that early treatment decisions to delay transfusion and different long-term treatment strategies in individuals with milder genotypes have led to adverse longterm effects of under-treated thalassemia and worse survival. We propose that HBB genotype determination and use of this information to aid in decision-making can improve long-term outcomes of thalassemia patients.Read Publication