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Specific treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
The subtype of AML
Extent of the disease
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the disease
Your opinion or preference
Local vs. systemic treatments
Treatment for cancer is either local or systemic. Local treatments remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in one area. Systemic treatments destroy or control cancer cells throughout your entire body. In most cases, treatment for leukemia is systemic, because cancer cells are in your bloodstream throughout your body.
You may have just one type of treatment or a combination. Different types of treatment have different goals. Here are some of the types of treatment and their goals for adults who have AML.
What treatment may include
All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA)
This is a drug that doctors use to treat a subtype of AML, called acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Doctors do not use this treatment for other types of AML. Doctors combine ATRA, which is a relative of vitamin A, with other types of anticancer drugs.
The use of anticancer drugs to shrink or kill cancerous cells and reduce cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
Chemotherapy is the main way to treat AML. Its goal is to kill the cancer cells, putting your disease into remission and keeping it there. Remission is when you have no signs or symptoms of the disease.
The use of high-energy radiation to kill or shrink cancer cells, tumors, and non-cancerous diseases.
Because this is a local treatment, radiation is not used very often for AML. It may be used if the leukemia spreads to the brain, or in rare cases, where there is a specific tumor somewhere in the body.
Stem cell transplant with high-dose chemotherapy
Your doctor may need to give you very high doses of chemotherapy combined with a stem cell transplant. Doctors remove and freeze blood stem cells, either from you or from a compatible stem cell donor, before giving you high-dose chemotherapy. The stem cells are then infused after treatment to restore your body's lost blood cells. This is called peripheral blood stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant. The BMT program at Stanford has been very successful with a history of limited morbidity rates and acute mortality that is well below most published reports.
Stanford expertise and specialized treatments
Among the specialized treatments available to patients with acute myelogenous leukemia are:
Chemotherapy and radiation
At the Stanford Cancer Center, AML treatment typically begins with chemotherapy that is broken into two phases: an induction phase that may require hospitalization, and a later consolidation phase that can be administered in the Cancer Center's outpatient chemotherapy infusion center.
Blood and marrow transplantation
Blood and marrow transplantation (BMT) may be appropriate for patients in remission with high risk of relapse or those who have relapse or have AML that does not respond to other treatment. BMT has evolved over the past 30 years into an effective therapy for a variety of malignant and non-malignant diseases including leukemia. The BMT Program at Stanford has been very successful and such treatment can influence survival outcomes positively.
Clinical trials and research
The Hematology Program's team is commonly involved in testing new treatments for AML that are not yet available at other facilities, including state of the art chemotherapy.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.