Conference Coverage

ARBs, beta-blockers independently inhibit Marfan syndrome progression

Early start might delay surgery



Beta-blockers have long been recommended to prevent aortic dissection associated with Marfan syndrome despite limited evidence, but a new analysis also supports a benefit from angiotensin receptors blockers (ARBs) and further suggests that beta-blockers and ARBs exert independent effects.

For the endpoint of inhibition of growth of the aortic root, “there is no evidence of any interaction between the effects of ARBs with beta-blockers, and so we think that the treatment effects are likely to be additive,” reported Alex Pitcher, BMBCh, DPhil, Oxford (England) University Hospitals, NHS Trust.

Based on these data, Dr. Pitcher recommended considering ARBs and beta-blockers together soon after the diagnosis of Marfan syndrome. This includes young children.

“We think that medical treatments can delay surgery and dissection substantially if given for a number of years,” he added.

In this study, undertaken by the Marfan Treatment Trialists (MTT) collaboration, data were available from 1,442 Marfan syndrome patients participating in seven treatment trials. The primary outcome was aortic root enlargement, a predictor of life-threatening aortic dissection and rupture. Rather than a meta-analysis of the pooled data, the meta-analysis was conducted with individual patient data that involved collaboration with the original trialists.

Four of the studies with 746 patients compared ARBs to placebo or a control medication. A second group of three trials with 766 patients compared ARBs to beta-blockers.

From the two sets of data, a calculation of the effect of beta-blockers was indirectly estimated.

ARBs slow annualized aortic growth rate significantly

In the first set of trials, the analysis showed a significantly slower annualized aortic root growth rate for those treated with ARBs relative to controls (0.07 vs. 0.13), producing a statistically significant absolute difference (0.7%; P = .01) in favor of the ARB.

“In other words, the rate of growth was nearly double in the control arm,” Dr. Pitcher said.

In the three trials comparing ARBs to beta-blockers, the annualized growth rate among those taking an ARB was similar (0.8%) to that seen in the previous set of controlled trials. This rate of annualized growth was not significantly different from the 0.11% annualized rate of growth in patients receiving beta-blockers. When an analysis of the impact of beta-blockers was conducted by indirectly evaluating the change in growth relative to controls, the estimated impact was an annualized growth rate of 0.9% (P = .042).

A second set of data provided the basis for suggesting that the effects of beta ARBs and beta-blockers are independent and potentially additive.

“We were able to look at subgroups of patients in the ARB trials that were broken down by whether they were or were not on beta-blockers at baseline, and so by doing able to estimate independent effects,” Dr. Pitcher said. The lack of any interactions led Dr. Pitcher to conclude that benefits are likely additive.

Of patients genotyped in the ARB studies, more than 80% had the FBN1 pathogenic variant of Marfan syndrome. When the data were analyzed by subgroups, including age or blood pressure, there were no differences in treatment effect except for those with the FBN1 mutation in whom the benefit of ARB therapy was greater relative to those without.

As FBN1 is one of the most common genetic signatures of Marfan syndrome, the “greater effect of ARBs in this group makes it more plausible that the effect is real,” Dr. Pitcher said.


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