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Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), also known as acute myelogenous leukemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (ANLL), is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. AML is the most common acute leukemia affecting adults, and its incidence increases with age. Although AML is a relatively rare disease, accounting for approximately 1.2% of cancer deaths in the United States, its incidence is expected to increase as the population ages.
The symptoms of AML are caused by replacement of normal bone marrow with leukemic cells, which causes a drop in red blood cells, platelets, and normal white blood cells. These symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. Several risk factors and chromosomal abnormalities have been identified, but the specific cause is not clear. As an acute leukemia, AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.
AML has several subtypes; treatment and prognosis varies among subtypes. Five-year survival varies from 15–70%, and relapse rate varies from 33–78%, depending on subtype. AML is treated initially with chemotherapy aimed at inducing a remission; patients may go on to receive additional chemotherapy or a hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Recent research into the genetics of AML has resulted in the availability of tests that can predict which drug or drugs may work best for a particular patient, as well as how long that patient is likely to survive.
AML is the most common type of acute leukemia. It occurs when the bone marrow begins to make blasts, cells that have not yet completely matured. These blasts normally develop into white blood cells. However, in AML, these cells do not develop and are unable to ward off infections.
In AML, the bone marrow may also make abnormal red blood cells and platelets. The number of these abnormal cells increases rapidly, and the abnormal (leukemia) cells begin to crowd out the normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets that the body needs.
One of the main things that differentiates AML from the other main forms of leukemia is that it has eight different subtypes, which are based on the cell that the leukemia developed from. The types of acute myelogenous leukemia include:
- Myeloblastic (M0) - on special analysis
- Myeloblastic (M1) - without maturation
- Myeloblastic (M2) - with maturation
- Promyeloctic (M3)
- Myelomonocytic (M4)
- Monocytic (M5)
- Erythroleukemia (M6)
- Megakaryocytic (M7)
Acute myeloid leukemia treatment options
Treatment for AML may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplant and/or immunotherapy. Your integrated team of leukemia experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options based on your unique diagnosis and needs.
A common chemotherapy treatment for AML begins with induction chemotherapy, in which a combination of drugs is used to destroy as many leukemia cells as possible and bring blood counts to normal. This is followed by consolidation chemotherapy, to destroy any remaining leukemia cells that cannot be seen in the blood or bone marrow.
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