Rare Disease Report

NBA Hall of Famer Reveals Amyloidosis Diagnosis

FEBRUARY 20, 2018
Mathew Shanley
In a story written by Jackie MacMullan and published on ESPN.com this morning, it was revealed the Hall of Fame basketball player Nate “Tiny” Archibald has been living with the rare, incurable heart disease amyloidosis.

Archibald learned of his diagnosis in December 2016, per MacMullan, during a free screening at the New York offices of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).

Amyloidosis is a systemic disorder caused by the buildup of amyloid in the organs. It can affect different organs in different people, and is broken down into several subtypes, including primary, secondary or familial amyloidosis. The most common type of familial, or hereditary, amyloidosis is ATTR amyloidosis, and it is the result of mutations in the transthyretin (TTR) gene.

"What's happening is my heart is beating too fast and too hard,'' Archibald said in the article. "There's blockage in there and we [gotta] find a way to dissolve some of it. My heart is taking a pounding, and that blockage is going to cause it to malfunction."

Recent strides have been made in the rare disease community as it pertains to amyloidosis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted new drug applications (NDAs) for treatments in development by both Ionis Pharmaceuticals and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals , respectively, for the treatment of hATTR since the start of the new year. That means that, by the end of the summer, two new drugs for the condition could be approved.

Archibald played 14 years in the National Basketball Association (NBA), splitting his time between the Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City Kings, New York Nets, Buffalo Braves, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks. As a Celtic in 1981 – the season in which he won his only NBA Championship – he was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the NBA All-Star Game.

In 1996, he was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All-Time.

Since retiring from the NBA in 1984, Archibald received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas-El Paso and taught in the New York City school system. He received a master’s degree from Fordham University in 1990 and a professional diploma in supervision and administration in 1994.

Now, Archibald hopes to educate a younger generation of athletes, and encourage them to take advantage of the medical services and healthcare they are offered as members of the NBPA.

"In our [New York-New Jersey-Connecticut] tri-state area, we send out about 70 emails asking retired players to get checked, but how many show up? Not even 10 of them,'' Archibald said. "They don't think it's important. They say, 'I don't need screening. I feel good.’ Well, you know what? That's what I used to say."

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