The treatment of the subtype of AML called acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) differs from that for other forms of AML. (APL is M3 in the FAB system.) Most APL patients are now treated first with all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) which induces a complete response in 70% of cases and extends survival. APL patients are then given a course of consolidation therapy, which is likely to include cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C) and idarubicin.
Bone marrow transplantation is used to replace the bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. First, all of the bone marrow in the body is destroyed with high doses of chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy. Healthy marrow is then taken from another person (a donor) whose tissue is the same as or almost the same as the patient's. The donor may be a twin (the best match), a brother or sister, or a person who is otherwise related or not related. The healthy marrow from the donor is given to the patient through a needle in the vein, and the marrow replaces the marrow that was destroyed. A bone marrow transplant using marrow from a relative or from a person who is not related is called an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. A greater chance for recovery occurs if the doctor chooses a hospital that does more than five bone marrow transplantations per year.
The overall chance of recovery (the long-term prognosis) depends on the subtype of AML and the patient's age and general health.
Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016
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