Therapeutic advances in acute myeloid leukemia
The choice of treatment approach and outcome in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) depends on the age of the patient. In younger patients, arbitrarily defined as being younger than 60 years, 70% to 80% enter complete disease remission with several anthracycline-based chemotherapy combinations. Consolidation with high-dose cytarabine or stem-cell transplantation in high-risk patients will restrict overall relapse to approximately 50%. A number of demographic features can predict the outcome of treatment including cytogenetics and an increasing list of molecular features (ie, FLT3, NPM1, MLL, WT1, CEBPalpha, EVI1). These are increasingly being used to direct postinduction therapy, but they are also molecular targets for a new generation of small molecule inhibitors that are in early development; however, randomized data have yet to emerge. In older patients who comprise the majority, which will increase with demographic change, the initial clinical decision to be made is whether the patient should receive an intensive or nonintensive approach. If the same anthracycline/cytarabine-based approach is deployed, the remission rate will be around 50%, but the risk of subsequent relapse is approximately 85% at 3 years. This difference from younger patients is explained partly by the ability of patients to tolerate effective therapy, and also the aggregation of several poor risk factors compared with the young. There remains a substantial proportion of patients older than 60 years who do not receive intensive chemotherapy. Their survival is approximately 4 months, but there is considerable interest in developing new treatments for this patient group, including novel nucleoside analogs and several other agents.