Historically it has been thought that the majority of elderly cardiomyopathy patients diagnosed with amyloidosis, ATTR-CM, transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, suffered from wild-type, a non-genetic version of the disease that most commonly affects but is not exclusive to men over seventy years of age. A study in the UK conducted from January 2010 through August 2022 was conducted to determine whether this was true. It is thought that this study was the first time such a large population of ATTR-CM patients was studied to consider the actual prevalence of the differing disease types. The researchers stated purpose was “ …to estimate the prevalence, clinical characteristics and prognostic implications of transthyretin (TTR) variants among elderly patients diagnosed with ATTR-CM.”1
A paper detailing the results of the study, ‘Prevalence, characteristics and outcomes of older patients with hereditary versus wild-type transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy’ by A. Porcari et al.1, published January 16, 2023 in the European Journal of Heart Failure provide specifics about the methodology, statistical analysis of the results, and an analysis of the findings. An invited editorial about that article, ‘Variant and wild type transthyretin amyloidosis: two sides of the same coin or different currencies in different pockets?’, by Osnat Itzhaki Ben Zadok and Rodney H. Falk provides comments and an assessment of the study discussed in the A. Porcari paper.2 A helpful summary of the differences between wild-type and hereditary amyloidosis can be found here.3
With increased awareness of amyloidosis and the various types as well as developments in the technology used to diagnose and type ATTR amyloidosis, it has now become relatively easy to determine whether a patient is suffering from the hereditary version or the wild-type. Imaging has become preferred over the previous “gold standard” of endomyocardial biopsy. The study population was selected from those for whom ATTR-CM was established as the diagnosis using echocardiography, nuclear scintigraphy, and TTR gene sequencing at the National Amyloidosis Center (NAC) in London, the single center for diagnosing and treating amyloidosis patients in the UK. Correct diagnosis and typing of the disease could allow for appropriate treatment to begin resulting in the likelihood of an improved disease management and outcome for the patient.
A total of 2,029 patients were accepted into the study, none of whom had previously received genetic testing for the disease. Patients identified through gene sequencing as having the hereditary version of the disease, 141 total, were moved to medication as soon as it became available. Of note, all patients who had been treated with any of the then available medication for ATTR amyloidosis — tafamidis, inotersen, diflunisal, or patisiran, and all patients who were participating in clinical trials for therapies for the disease — were excluded from the study. This was to remove the possibility of the therapies skewing the results. All participants were 70 years of age or older. The patients were all followed at the NAC in London, the only center for the diagnosis and treatment of Amyloidosis in the UK. This allowed for unprecedented access to what is thought to be the majority of ATTR-CM in the country. All causes of death were tracked for the duration of the study.
The table below illustrates the number of ATTM-CM patients in the study who were thought to be suffering from wild-type amyloidosis but after testing were actually found to have a hereditary, variant, version of the disease instead. Specific data from the tests used to make this determination can be found in the article where the following table is found.
Correcting the diagnosis then allowed the patients to be moved to more appropriate therapies.
Further discussion in the Porcari article considers the study population and those currently listed in the THAOS registry4 by percentage of total ATTR-CM patients in the United Kingdom, the United States, and the rest of the World for both wild-type and variant disease with the more common variants also identified. It is thought that as many as 20% of ATTR-CM identified as having the wild-type disease likely have a variant version but have not had genetic testing to correctly determine that.1
The article goes on to discuss the most commonly seen demographics and presentations of ATTRwt-CM and ATTRv-CM in the elderly, and the effects of the various therapies currently available as well as their mechanisms and limitations.
While some symptoms of wild-type amyloidosis and hereditary, variant, amyloidosis are similar, it is easy to differentiate between the two diseases. With careful testing, as noted in the article, this then allows for the proper management and treatment of the disease. The concluding paragraph of the paper really sums up the findings and sends an important message.
“In conclusion, up to 20.7% of elderly patients with ATTR-CM carry a pathogenic TTR mutation with a higher proportion still among specific ethnic groups. Among patients diagnosed with ATTR-CM, younger age at diagnosis, female gender, Afro-Caribbean ethnicity, AF, IHD, polyneuropathy and orthostatic hypotension are independently associated with ATTRv-CM. A diagnosis of ATTR-CM should prompt sequencing of the TTR gene in all patients, regardless of age, gender and ethnicity.”1
1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ejhf.2776 Prevalence, characteristics and outcomes of older patients with hereditary versus wild-type transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, Aldostefano Porcari, Yousuf Razvi, Ambra Masi, Rishi Patel, Adam Ioannou, Muhammad U. Rauf, David F. Hutt, Dorota Rowczenio, Janet Gilbertson, Ana Martinez-Naharro, Lucia Venneri, Carol Whelan, Helen Lachmann, Ashutosh Wechalekar, Candida Cristina Quarta, Marco Merlo, Gianfranco Sinagra, Philip N. Hawkins, Marianna Fontana, Julian D. Gillmore, January 2023
2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejhf.2808 Variant and wild type transthyretin amyloidosis: two sides of the same coin or different currencies in different pockets?
Osnat Itzhaki Ben Zadok, Rodney H. Falk, February 2023
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7500251/ Transthyretin Amyloidosis: Update on the Clinical Spectrum, Pathogenesis, and Disease-Modifying Therapies
Haruki Koike and Masahisa Katsuno, September 2020
4. https://www.jns-journal.com/article/S0022-510X(15)00745-5/fulltext THAOS – The Transthyretin Amyloidosis Outcome Survey , F. Barroso, M. Waddinton-Cruz, et. Al., October 2015