The development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) following treatment with ionizing radiation or chemotherapy, particularly alkylating agents and topoisomerase inhibitors, is termed therapy-related (t-AML or t-MDS, respectively). In addition to genotoxic exposures, genetic predisposition susceptibilities (such as polymorphisms in drug detoxification and DNA repair pathway components) may contribute to the occurrence of secondary AML/MDS.[1,2,3,4] The risk of t-AML/t-MDS is regimen-dependent and is related to the cumulative doses of chemotherapy agents received, as well as the dose and field of radiation administered. Regimens previously used that employed high cumulative doses of either epipodophyllotoxins (e.g., etoposide or teniposide) or alkylating agents (e.g., mechlorethamine, melphalan, busulfan, and cyclophosphamide) induced excessively high rates of t-AML/t-MDS that exceeded 10% in some cases.[5,6] However, most current chemotherapy regimens that are used to treat childhood cancers have a cumulative incidence of t-AML/t-MDS not greater than 1% to 2%. t-AML/t-MDS resulting from epipodophyllotoxins and other topoisomerase II inhibitors (e.g., anthracyclines) usually occur within 2 years of exposure and are commonly associated with chromosome 11q23 abnormalities, although other subtypes of AML (e.g., acute promyelocytic leukemia) have been reported.[8,9] t-AML following exposure to alkylating agents or ionizing radiation often occurs 5 to 7 years later and is commonly associated with monosomies or deletions of chromosomes 5 and 7.[1,7]
The goal of treatment is to achieve an initial complete remission (CR) using AML-directed regimens and then, usually, proceed directly to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) with the best available donor. However, treatment is challenging due to the following:
- Increased rates of adverse cytogenetics and subsequent failure to obtain remission with chemotherapy.
- Comorbidities or limitations related to chemotherapy for the previous malignancy.
Accordingly, CR rates and overall survival (OS) rates are usually lower for patients with t-AML compared with patients with de novo AML.[10,11,12] Patients with t-MDS-refractory anemia usually have not needed induction chemotherapy prior to transplant; the role of induction therapy with refractory anemia with excess blasts-1 prior to transplant is controversial.