, Volume 96, Issue 2, pp 186-193

Acute myeloid leukemia in older adults

Abstract

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is predominantly a disease of older adults, with a median age at diagnosis of over 65 years. AML in older adults differs biologically and clinically from that in younger ones, and is characterized by stronger intrinsic resistance and lower tolerance to chemotherapy. The effects of age on both patient- and disease-related factors result in a higher incidence of early death during chemotherapy, a lower rate of complete remission, and a reduced chance of long-term survival. Treatment options for older adults with AML include intensive chemotherapy, less-intensive chemotherapy, best supportive care, or enrolment in clinical trials. Given the heterogeneous nature of AML in older adults, therapeutic decisions need to be individualized after systematic assessment of disease biology and patient characteristics. Regardless of treatment, however, outcomes for older AML patients remain in general unsatisfactory. In contrast with the progress made for younger adults, the treatment of AML in older adults has not improved significantly in recent decades. Development of less toxic and more targeted agents may well provide treatment alternatives for a majority of these patients. The overall dismal outcome with currently available treatment approaches has encouraged older AML patients to participate in prospective clinical trials.