Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer. “Acute” means that the cancer can progress quickly without treatment. “Myeloid” indicates the type of cells that turn into this form of leukemia. When people have AML, their bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells that grow out of control and make it harder for normal cells to grow.

Types of Acute Myeloid Leukemia

There are several types of AML. When acute myeloid leukemia occurs in someone without a prior history of a blood problem, it is called de novo AML. When other blood problems, such as myelodysplastic syndrome and myeloproliferative neoplasms, turn into AML, it is called secondary AML. When AML is caused by prior chemotherapy or radiation, it is called therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia. Finally, there is a type of AML that behaves differently from other acute myeloid leukemia; it is called acute promyelocytic leukemia or APL.

Causes and Risk Factors

While the exact cause of AML is not known, there are certain risk factors. For example, exposure to ionizing radiation or chemotherapy is associated with the development of AML. Certain genetic conditions can also lead to AML. In addition, other blood disorders such as myeloproliferative neoplasms, myelodysplastic syndrome, and aplastic anemia are risks for developing AML.

Symptoms, Screening, and Diagnosis

The symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia are related to low blood counts. These include feeling very tired, bleeding or bruising easily, or getting infections more easily than normal. There are no screening tests for AML. If you have abnormal blood counts and concerning signs, your doctor may perform a bone marrow biopsy to see if you have AML.

Treatments We Offer

Treatment of acute myeloid leukemia depends on the type of AML you have and your age. Typical treatment involves two steps. The first step, known as induction, can involve chemotherapy or a combination of other treatments to put your condition into remission. The next step is known as consolidation. It is designed to keep the leukemia in remission. Some patients may require a stem cell transplant to keep the disease in remission.

AML treatment usually requires hospitalization. The AML team at Mount Sinai includes doctors who specialize in infectious diseases, gastroenterology, pulmonology, cardiology, kidney disease, neurology, psychiatry, and critical care. The team also includes social workers, nutritionists, and physical therapists.

Unfortunately, many patients relapse, and there are fewer treatment options when this happens. Clinical trials are often the best option when patients relapse.

Clinical Trials and Research

Mount Sinai offers a wide range of clinical trials that test new therapies to see if they can improve the lives of patients with acute myeloid leukemia. These clinical trials are often inspired by research done in our laboratories and include new drugs, new cellular products, and immunotherapies.