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Treatment Overview for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

    The mainstay of the therapeutic approach is systemically administered combination chemotherapy.[1] Future approaches involving risk-group stratification and biologically targeted therapies are being tested to improve antileukemic treatment while sparing normal tissues.[2] Optimal treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) requires control of bone marrow and systemic disease. Treatment of the central nervous system (CNS), usually with intrathecal medication, is a component of most pediatric AML protocols but has not yet been shown to contribute directly to an improvement in survival. CNS irradiation is not necessary in patients either as prophylaxis or for those presenting with cerebrospinal fluid leukemia that clears with intrathecal and systemic chemotherapy.

    Treatment is ordinarily divided into two phases: (1) induction (to attain remission), and (2) postremission consolidation/intensification. Postremission therapy may consist of varying numbers of courses of intensive chemotherapy and/or allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). For example, ongoing trials of the Children's Oncology Group (COG) and the United Kingdom Medical Research Council (MRC) utilize similar chemotherapy regimens consisting of two courses of induction chemotherapy followed by two additional courses of intensification chemotherapy.[3,4]

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    Maintenance therapy is not part of most pediatric AML protocols as two randomized clinical trials failed to show a benefit for maintenance chemotherapy.[5,6] The exception to this generalization is acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), for which maintenance therapy has been shown to improve event-free survival and overall survival (OS).[7]

    Treatment of AML is usually associated with severe and protracted myelosuppression along with other associated complications. Treatment with hematopoietic growth factors (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor [GM-CSF] and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor [G-CSF]) has been used in an attempt to reduce the toxicity associated with severe myelosuppression but does not influence ultimate outcome.[8] Virtually all adult randomized trials of hematopoietic growth factors (GM-CSF and G-CSF) have demonstrated significant reduction in the time to neutrophil recovery,[9,10,11,12] but varying degrees of reduction in morbidity and little, if any, effect on mortality.[8] The BFM 98 study confirmed a lack of benefit for the use of G-CSF in a randomized pediatric AML trial.[13]

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