Before the advent of effective iron chelation, death from iron-induced cardiomyopathy occurred in the second decade in patients with transfusion-dependent chronic anemias. The advances in our understanding of iron metabolism; the ability to monitor iron loading in the liver, heart, pancreas and pituitary; and the availability of several effective iron chelators have dramatically improved survival and reduced morbidity from transfusion-related iron overload. Nevertheless, significantly increased survival brings about new complications such as malignant transformation resulting from prolonged exposure to iron, which need to be considered when developing long-term therapeutic strategies. This review discusses the current biology of iron homeostasis and its close relation to marrow activity in patients with transfusion-dependent anemias, and how biology informs clinical approach to treatment.

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