Indexed on: 21 Aug '19Published on: 20 Aug '19Published in: British Journal of Haematology
Telomeres are essential for chromosomal stability and markers of biological age. We evaluated the effect of pre-transplant short (<10th percentile-for-age) or very short (<5th or <1st percentile-for-age) leucocyte telomere length on survival after unrelated donor haematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) for acquired severe aplastic anaemia (SAA). Patient pre-transplant blood samples and clinical data were available at the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research. We used quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction to measure relative telomere length (RTL) in 490 SAA patients who received HCT between 1990 and 2013 (median age = 20 years). One hundred and twelve patients (22·86%) had pre-HCT RTL <10th percentile-for-age, with the majority below the 5th percentile (N = 80, 71·43%). RTL <10th percentile-for-age was associated with a higher risk of post-HCT mortality (hazard ratio [HR] = 1·78, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1·18-2·69, P = 0·006) compared with RTL ≥50th percentile; no survival differences were noted in longer RTL categories (P > 0·10). Time-dependent effects for post-HCT mortality were only observed in relation to very short RTL; HR comparing RTL <5th versus ≥5th percentile = 1·38, P = 0·15 for the first 12 months after HCT, and HR = 3·91, P < 0·0001, thereafter, P-heterogeneity = 0·008; the corresponding HRs for RTL <1st versus ≥1st percentile = 1·29, P = 0·41, and HR = 5·18, P < 0·0001, P-heterogeneity = 0·005. The study suggests a potential role for telomere length in risk stratification of SAA patients in regard to their HCT survival. © 2019 British Society for Haematology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.