Diseases / Research

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

This is an example of a rare form of acute myeloid leukemia with megakaryocytic differentiation (AML-M7) that is involving the liver. The malignant blasts are the intermediate size cells in the the vascular space (clear area).

Photo by SCCA Department of Pathology

Bone marrow transplantation has been a treatment option for various forms of leukemia for decades.  Fred Hutch scientists are committed to  making current leukemia treatments less toxic and more widely available, while pursuing a new generation of powerful therapies that could have fewer side effects than today's treatments.

Fast Facts

  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common type of blood cancer in adults. If untreated, it usually progresses quickly.

  • Acute myeloid leukemia is also called acute myelogenous leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia, acute monoblastic leukemia and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.

  • In a healthy person, bone marrow makes the blood stem cells that mature into infection-fighting white blood cells, oxygen-carrying red blood cells and blood-clotting platelets. AML interferes with this process and hinders production of infection-fighting white blood cells.

  • Sometimes AML leads to a build up of abnormal red blood cells or platelets, leaving less room for healthy white blood cells. This can lead to infection, anemia, or easy bleeding. The leukemia cells can spread to many body parts, including the brain, skin and gums.

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Treatment & Prognosis

Pioneering bone marrow transplants – Led by Nobel Prize recipient Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, Fred Hutch researchers have transformed bone marrow transplantation into standard treatment for AML and other blood cancers. The procedure, as well as its sister treatment stem cell transplantation, is widely recognized as one of the greatest achievements in cancer treatment and has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Learn more >

Developing new therapies for older adults – Our researchers were the first to successfully combine low-intensity chemotherapy, targeted radiation and stem cell transplants to successfully treat adult AML. The treatment is an improvement over high-dose radiation, which causes significant transplant-related deaths among older-adult AML patients. Learn more >

Taking a new approach to stem cell transplants – Hutch experts have developed an innovative approach to stem cell transplantation known as the non-myeloablative or "mini" stem cell transplant. This treatment involves minimal doses of radiation, making it a viable procedure for AML patients who cannot withstand the rigors of a conventional transplant. Studies show mini-transplant recipients are as likely to survive their cancers as full stem cell transplant recipients. Learn more >

Using the immune system to fight leukemia – Our researchers are investigating how the body’s own infection-fighting T-cells can be used to combat a variety of cancers. The approach, called immunotherapy, holds promise for treating several types of cancer, including chemotherapy-resistant ALL in children. Read more >

Creating new hope for children with AML – Fred Hutch researchers has discovered that a second stem cell transplant can improve the odds of curing aggressive AML in children whose cancer returns after a first transplant. Learn more >

Making AML treatment more bearable – Our researchers are investigating ways to make AML treatment more bearable. They have shown that it is safe for some patients to leave the hospital when their chemotherapy is complete. Traditionally, patients are asked to stay in the hospital for at least a month after treatment. We are now investigating whether this principle applies to patients up to age 75.

Using genetics to understand AML – Our researchers are studying genetic mutations that can help predict response to AML therapy. Large cooperative studies, run through the Radich Lab, are looking to identify markers of resistance to help understand why patients do not respond to therapy, or respond but later relapse. Another study will investigate "clonal evolution" i.e. how some small clones of AML escape death from therapy and then expand to cause disease relapse.

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