Treatments for acute myelogenous leukemia

If you have acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your needs and may include a combination of different treatments. When deciding which treatments to offer for AML, your healthcare team will consider:

  • your age
  • the subtype of AML
  • chromosome changes, or abnormalities
  • whether you have had chemotherapy in the past to treat a different cancer
  • whether you have had a blood disorder such as a myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
  • whether the cancer has spread to the brain and spinal cord (called the central nervous system, or CNS)
  • your overall health

Response to treatment

How well leukemia responds to treatment is an important factor. It helps doctors determine prognostic risk group and plan future care. The goal of treatment is to reach a complete remission.

Complete remission, or complete response, means that the numbers of blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) have returned to normal levels and less than 5% of cells in the bone marrow are immature blood cells (called blast cells, or blasts). There are no general signs or symptoms of AML and no signs or symptoms that AML has spread to the brain and spinal cord (called the central nervous system, or CNS) or anywhere else in the body.

Minimal residual disease (MRD) means that there are blast cells in the bone marrow, but they can only be seen using very sensitive tests, such as flow cytometry or polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The blast cells can’t be seen with standard tests, such as looking at the cells under a microscope.

Active disease means that there are blast cells still present during treatment or the disease comes back (relapses) after treatment. Active disease means that more than 5% of cells in the bone marrow are blast cells.

Expert review and references

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Leukemia - Acute Myeloid - AML: Treatment Options. Alexandria, VA.: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); 2013: http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/leukemia-acute-myeloid-aml/treatment-options.
  • Kebriaei P, Champlin R, de Lima M, et al . Management of acute leukemias. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 131: pp. 1928-1954.
  • Kurtin SE . Leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes. Yarbro, CH, Wujcki D, & Holmes Gobel B. (eds.). Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2011: 57: pp. 1369-1398.
  • National Cancer Institute. Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2014: http://www.cancer.gov.
  • Wiernik PH . Diagnosis and treatment of adult acute myeloid leukemia other than acute promyelocytic leukemia. Wiernik PH, Goldman JM, Dutcher JP & Kyle RA (eds.). Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood. 5th ed. Springer; 2013: 22: pp. 375-401.

Induction treatments for acute myelogenous leukemia

Induction treatment for AML is given over one week to clear the blood and bone marrow of leukemia cells. Learn about induction treatment.

Consolidation treatments for acute myelogenous leukemia

Consolidation treatment for AML is given soon after induction treatment to keep leukemia cells from coming back. Learn about consolidation treatment.

Treatments for relapsed or refractory acute myelogenous leukemia

Relapsed AML has come back after treatment. Refractory AML did not respond to treatment. Learn about treatment for relapsed and refractory AML.

Treatments for acute promyelocytic leukemia

Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a subtype of AML that has its own treatment options. Learn about treatments for APL.

Chemotherapy for acute myelogenous leukemia

Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells and is the main treatment for AML. Usually 2 or 3 drugs are given together. Learn about chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy for acute myelogenous leukemia

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes used to treat AML. Learn about radiation therapy and its use in AML.

Targeted therapy for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)

Targeted therapy is sometimes used to treat AML with certain genetic mutations or AML that expresses certain proteins. Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on or inside cancer cells to stop the growth and spread of cancer and limit harm to normal cells.

Stem cell transplant for acute myelogenous leukemia

Stem cell transplant replaces blood-forming stem cells when stem cells or the bone marrow have been damaged. Learn about stem cell transplant for AML

Supportive therapy

Supportive therapy is given to treat the complications of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and its treatments. Learn about supportive therapy for ALL.

Follow-up after treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia

Follow-up after acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) treatment varies. Learn about follow-up appointments and the procedures and tests that may be done.