Acute myeloid leukemia is a kind of cancer found in the blood and bone marrow that develops in cells that would otherwise become white blood cells. However, acute myeloid leukemia can begin in other cells as well.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a deadly disease without proper treatment and can spread to other organs very fast, like the liver, lymph nodes, brain, spleen, and testicles. Acute myeloid leukemia is also known as acute myelocytic, acute granulocytic, acute myelogenous, and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia. Even though AML is incurable, there are treatment options that can potentially prolong patients’ lives.
Standard Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatments
The treatment is usually dependent on a number of aspects such as the subtype of leukemia, age, and general health. However, there are two phases to the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia: remission induction therapy and consolidation (post-remission) therapy.
Remission Induction Therapy
Remission therapy works to destroy the leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow. Unfortunately, remission induction therapy alone is often never sufficient enough to kill all the leukemia cells, so this is only the first stage of the treatment.
– Chemotherapy: Even though it may be used while in post-remission therapy, chemotherapy is the main component of the remission induction therapy as it wipes out the leukemia cells. The treatment is often more intense for people younger than 60, and the drugs used most commonly used are cytarabine, daunorubicin, and cladribine.
– Anticancer drugs: If the subtype of the leukemia is promyelocytic, the remission induction therapy is used in combination with anticancer drugs like Trisenox (arsenic trioxide) and ATRA (retinoic acid). These medications target cancer cells with a particular mutation to prevent them from growing and replicating.
This stage of the treatment is also referred to as the maintenance therapy as the treatment targets and destroys the remainder of the leukemia cells in your body and is only used if you are in remission. Post-remission therapy is also an intense wrap-up treatment to lower the risk of a recurrence using only cytarabine in large doses.
– Stem cell transplant: A stem cell transplant, also known as a bone marrow transplant, may be needed during post-remission therapy. This transplant is done to replace the unhealthy cells in the bone marrow with healthy cells. These healthy cells then promote healthy bone marrow regrowth.
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