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Adult Leukemia

Standard Treatment for Adult AML

The treatment of adult AML usually has 2 phases.

 

Four types of standard treatment are used:

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the subtype of the cancer being treated and whether it has spread to the brain and spinal cord.

Intrathecal chemotherapy; drawing shows the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain and spinal cord, and an Ommaya reservoir (a dome-shaped container that is placed under the scalp during surgery; it holds the drugs as they flow through a small tube into the brain). Top section shows a syringe and needle injecting anticancer drugs into the Ommaya reservoir. Bottom section shows a syringe and needle injecting anticancer drugs directly into the cerebrospinal fluid in the lower part of the spinal column.

 

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

 

Stem cell transplant is a method of giving chemotherapy and replacing blood-forming cells that are abnormal or destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. (The patient or another person can be the donor.) After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These reinfused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body's blood cells.

Stem cell transplant; (Panel 1): Drawing of stem cells being removed from a patient or donor. Blood is collected from a vein in the arm and flows through a machine that removes the stem cells; the remaining blood is returned to a vein in the other arm. (Panel 2): Drawing of a health care provider giving a patient treatment to kill blood-forming cells. Chemotherapy is given to the patient through a catheter in the chest. (Panel 3): Drawing of stem cells being given to the patient through a catheter in the chest.

Other drug therapy

Arsenic trioxide and all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) are anticancer drugs that kill leukemia cells, stop the leukemia cells from dividing, or help the leukemia cells mature into white blood cells. These drugs are used in the treatment of a subtype of AML called acute promyelocytic leukemia.

 

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ(r)) Cancer Information Summaries (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq). Date last modified: March 16, 2015

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Last Reviewed: Apr 10, 2015