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Cancer Health Center

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Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Classification of Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia


Alkylating agent-related acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes

The alkylating agent/radiation-related acute leukemias and myelodysplastic syndromes typically occur 5 to 6 years following exposure to the mutagenic agent, with a reported range of approximately 10 to 192 months.[49,51] The risk for occurrence is related to both the total cumulative dose of the alkylating agent and the age of the patient. Clinically, the disorder commonly presents initially as an MDS with evidence of bone marrow failure. This stage is followed by dysplastic features in multiple cell lineages with a blast percentage that is usually less than 5%. In the MDS phase, approximately 66% of cases satisfy the criteria for refractory cytopenia with multilineage dysplasia (RCMD), with approximately 33% of these cases exhibiting ringed sideroblasts in excess of 15% (RCMD-RS).[49] (Refer to the PDQ summary on Myelodysplastic Syndromes Treatment for more information.) Another 25% of cases satisfy the criteria for refractory anemia with excess blasts 1 or 2 (RAEB-1; RAEB-2). The MDS phase may evolve to a higher grade MDS or AML. Although a minority of patients may present with acute leukemia, a substantial number of patients succumb to the disorder in the MDS phase.[49]

Common morphologic features include the following:

  • Panmyelosis.
  • Dysgranulopoiesis.
  • Dyserythropoiesis.
  • Ringed sideroblasts (60% of cases; >15% in 33% of cases).
  • Hypercellular bone marrow (50% of cases).

Cases may correspond morphologically to AML with maturation, acute monocytic leukemia, AMML, erythroleukemia, or acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (FAB classifications M2, M5b, M4, M6a, and M7, respectively).

Cytogenetic abnormalities have been observed in more than 90% of cases of therapy-related AML or MDS and commonly include chromosomes 5 and/or 7.[49,52,53] Complex chromosomal abnormalities (≥3 distinct abnormalities) are the most common finding.[50,52,53,54] Therapy-related AML is usually refractory to antileukemia therapy. Median survival after diagnosis of these disorders is approximately 7 to 8 months.[50,52]

Topoisomerase II inhibitor-related acute myeloid leukemia

This type of AML occurs in patients treated with topoisomerase II inhibitors. The agents implicated are the epipodophyllotoxins etoposide and teniposide and the anthracyclines doxorubicin and 4-epi-doxorubicin.[49] The mean latency period from the time of institution of the causative therapy to the development of AML is approximately 2 years.[55] Morphologically, there is a significant monocytic component. Most cases are categorized as acute monoblastic or myelomonocytic leukemia. Other morphologies reported include APL, myelodysplastic syndromes, and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia.[49]

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