Progress in the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia in adults
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There has been important progress in the treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in patients under 60 years. A remission rate of 80% can be achieved by several schedules, and 40–45% of patients diagnosed will survive. It may still be possible to improve remission induction treatment eg by intensifying the Ara-C dose although this may only be detectable in an improved disease free survival. The main challenge is to reduce relapse. The risk is pre-determined by a number of powerful risk factors. In the experience of the MRC age, cytogenetics and clearance of blasts from the bone marrow after course I. Using the later two in combination good risk patients (FAB M3, t(8;21) t(15;17) inv(16)) have a relapse risk of 32%. Poor risk (blasts >15% after course 1 or abnormalities of Chs 5 or 7, 3q- and complex changes have a relapse risk of 82%. All other cases are standard risk and have a relapse risk of 56%. FLT3 mutations have been detected in about 25% of cases and provide additional negative predictive value overall and within each risk group. The assessment of the most effective consolidation treatment must be made taking into account the heterogeneity of the relapse risk. The MRC investigated the role of allo and autoBMT in addition to intensive chemotherapy. The data was analysis on an intent-to-treat or donor vs no donor basis. Although both types of transplant were able to reduce relapse overall and in all risk groups, there was an overall survival advantage only in standard risk patients. Since chemotherapy has improved since this study, there remains uncertainty about the benefit of transplant in all risk groups. Overall this experience has demonstrated that relapse can be reduced with more therapy. It is probable that the limits of conventional chemotherapy have been reached. The new AML15 trial will assess the value of adding the immunoconjugate (Mylotarg) to induction and/or chemotherapy. Improvements in older patients have been less detectable. MRC trials over the last 20 years show an improvement in remission rate (now 65%) but persistent poor survival (12% at 5 years). In the MRC AML11 Trial three induction schedules were compared (DAT vs ADE vs MAC) with DAT being superior. A comparison of a total of 3 vs 6 courses of treatment or the addition of interferon maintenance did not improve results. Newer approaches currently being assessed include resistance modulation; addition of immunoconjugate and minigrafts. New targets for treatment are emerging of which the most interesting is FLT3 inhibitors.
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