Acute myeloid leukemia is a heterogeneous cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This tumor occurs as a result of an over production of immature white blood cell which is called myeloblast.
The name of the disease is gotten from the blood cell produced in excess. The immature white blood cell produced gets into the bone marrow and it’s over production hinders the production of the normal blood cells.
The main cause of the display of these symptoms is as a result of the loss of normal function of blood by these myelobast. Since they are immature and reduce the mature and proper functioning blood, their function as blood cells is greatly reduced. One of the functions of blood affected in acute myeloid leukemia is fighting against infection.
Patients with acute myeloid leukemia are easily infected due to reduced immunity against infection. Another very common symptom in patients suffering from acute myeloid leukemia is anemia. Anemia is as a result of reduced production of normal red blood cells and platelets. Anemia is usually severe with different levels of severity seen in different patients. Acute myeloid leukemia has other symptoms like being easily bruised and having swollen gum, bleeding of the nose, fever, skin pallor and even shortness of breath.
The treatment of acute myeloid leukemia in a newly diagnosed patient consist of chemotherapy ( the type of chemotherapy used is age dependent) aimed to quickly induce total remission, when this is achieved, further therapy is then aimed at cure of the disease (by eliminating any undetected residuals of the leukemic cells). Therefore the treatment process is divided into two stages.
The first stage is the stage of induction. The goal of this therapy is to get complete remission by reducing the quantity of the leukemic cells in the bone marrow and circulating blood to an undetectable level. The commonly used complete remission induction is a combined chemotherapy of cytarabine and anthracycline. Cytarabine is administered intravenously with dosage of 100 – 200mg/m2/day for one week. Anthracycline consists of daunorubicin is administered intravenously 45-60mg/m2 on day1, 2, and 3.
When induction therapy is completed, the bone marrow is examined. If blast cells are more than 5% with up to 20% cellular cells, induction therapy is performed again with dose similar to the first but cytarabine is given for 5 and antracycline 2 days. But after the second therapy if there is no positive result stem cell transplant is considered, though this is only possible in patient younger than 65 years.
The second stage is post remission or consolidation therapy, which is aimed at cure of patients with acute myeloid leukemia after the leukemic cells becomes undetectable. In this therapy treatment is based on the patient’s condition, this therapy involves an additional intensive chemotherapy of 3 to 5 courses. Patients with high risk of cytogenetics are given allogeneic stem cell transplant. Patients who stem cell transplant is not suitable for, are treated with a combination therapy of histamine dihydrochloride (ceplene) and interleukin 2.
The treatment of acute myeloid leukemia has shown good prognosis in the time past especially if diagnosis is made early ant treatment is started immediately.