Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), also known as acute myelogenous leukemia, is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. AML is the most common acute leukemia affecting adults, and its incidence increases with age. Although AML is a relatively rare disease, accounting for approximately 1.2% of cancer deaths in the United States, its incidence is expected to increase as the population ages.
The symptoms of AML are caused by replacement of normal bone marrow with leukemic cells, which causes a drop in red blood cells, platelets, and normal white blood cells. These symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. Although several risk factors for AML have been identified, the specific cause of the disease remains unclear. As an acute leukemia, AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.
AML has several subtypes; treatment and prognosis varies among subtypes. 5-year survival varies from 15-70%, and relapse rate varies from 78-33%, depending on subtype. AML is treated initially with chemotherapy aimed at inducing a remission; patients may go on to receive additional chemotherapy or a hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Recent research into the genetics of AML has developed tests that better predict how long a patient is likely to survive and whether a drug is likely to be effective.