What is acute myeloid leukemia (AML)?

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that is rapidly progressive without immediate treatment. Warning signs for AML include fatigue, fever, recurrent infections and easily bruising. Flu-like symptoms may also occur in early stages of the disease.

AML spreads through abnormal bone marrow cells known as blasts. Blasts can grow to other parts of the body, such as the central nervous system, skin, and gums.

AML is a rare condition averaging about 20,000 cases per year. Despite being uncommon, it is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults and makes up about 1 percent of all cancers. The 5-year overall survival rate for people with AML is less than 30 percent, highlighting the unmet medical need.

What are the symptoms associated with AML?

AML generally occurs in adults past the age of 45, although it is possible for younger people and children to develop the disease. Signs of AML increase in intensity as blasts spread through the body.

Varying symptoms may include:

General fatigue and lack of energy

Paleness of skin

Headaches

Fever

Weight loss and decreased appetite

Frequent infections throughout the body

Unusual bruising or bleeding, red spots on the skin

Swollen gums

Discomfort or pain in the abdomen

How is AML diagnosed?

Doctors may diagnose AML through physical exams and blood tests with a review of the patient’s medical history. Often, doctors need to get a biopsy from the bone marrow as well. Because the disease progresses rapidly, seeking medical attention early can help with treatment and patient outcomes.

What are the treatment options for AML?

Treatment options for AML include chemotherapy and targeted therapy. For some people, these treatments can get rid of the blasts, and for many others, just slow down their growth. Additionally, stem cell transplant may be used to provide healthy blood cells. People living with AML may also enter clinical trials testing investigational therapies.