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Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia/Other Myeloid Malignancies Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Classification of Pediatric Myeloid Malignancies

French-American-British (FAB) Classification for Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia

The first comprehensive morphologic-histochemical classification system for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) was developed by the FAB Cooperative Group.[1,2,3,4,5] This classification system categorizes AML into the following major subtypes primarily based on morphology and immunohistochemical detection of lineage markers:

  • M0: acute myeloblastic leukemia without differentiation.[6,7]M0 AML, also referred to as minimally differentiated AML, does not express myeloperoxidase (MPO) at the light microscopy level, but may show characteristic granules by electron microscopy. M0 AML can be defined by expression of cluster determinant (CD) markers such as CD13, CD33, and CD117 (c-KIT) in the absence of lymphoid differentiation. To be categorized as M0, the leukemic blasts must not display specific morphologic or histochemical features of either AML or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). M0 AML appears to be associated with an inferior prognosis in non-Down syndrome patients.[8]
  • M1: acute myeloblastic leukemia with minimal differentiation but with the expression of MPO that is detected by immunohistochemistry or flow cytometry.
  • M2: acute myeloblastic leukemia with differentiation.
  • M3: acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) hypergranular type.Identifying this subtype is critical because the risk of fatal hemorrhagic complication prior to or during induction is high and the appropriate therapy is different than for other subtypes of AML. (Refer to the Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia section of this summary for more information on treatment options under clinical evaluation.)
  • M3v: APL, microgranular variant. Cytoplasm of promyelocytes demonstrates a fine granularity, and nuclei are often folded. Same clinical, cytogenetic, and therapeutic implications as FAB M3.
  • M4: acute myelomonocytic leukemia (AMML).
  • M4Eo: AMML with eosinophilia (abnormal eosinophils with dysplastic basophilic granules).
  • M5: acute monocytic leukemia (AMoL).
    • M5a: AMoL without differentiation (monoblastic).
    • M5b: AMoL with differentiation.
  • M6: acute erythroid leukemia (AEL).
    • M6a: erythroleukemia.
    • M6b: pure erythroid leukemia.
  • M7: acute megakaryocytic leukemia (AMKL). Diagnosis of M7 can be difficult without the use of flow cytometry as the blasts can be morphologically confused with lymphoblasts. Characteristically, the blasts display cytoplasmic blebs. Marrow aspiration can be difficult due to myelofibrosis, and marrow biopsy with reticulin stain can be helpful.

Other extremely rare subtypes of AML include acute eosinophilic leukemia and acute basophilic leukemia.

Fifty percent to 60% of children with AML can be classified as having M1, M2, M3, M6, or M7 subtypes; approximately 40% have M4 or M5 subtypes. About 80% of children younger than 2 years with AML have an M4 or M5 subtype. The response to cytotoxic chemotherapy among children with the different subtypes of AML is relatively similar. One exception is FAB subtype M3, for which all-trans retinoic acid plus chemotherapy achieves remission and cure in approximately 70% to 80% of affected children.

World Health Organization (WHO) Classification System


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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