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Hematol J. 2000;1(5):329-32.

Acute leukemia following a previous malignancy: do acute lymphoid leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia have common risk factors?

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  • 1Department of Hematology, Catholic University, Largo Francesco Vito 1, I-00168 Rome, Italy.



Within the framework of the GIMEMA Study Group, the characteristics of acute lymphoid leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia occurring in patients who have suffered a previous malignancy were studied. Assessment was also made of the clinical course, laboratory features and overall outcome of these conditions.


A four-year, multi-center retrospective study was conducted to evaluate the effect of treatment for previous hematological malignancy on the development of secondary leukemia. The study collected in the GIMEMA Archive of Adult Acute Leukemia 3934 new cases of acute leukemia (2964 AML, 901 ALL, 60 acute biphenotypic leukemia). Among these cases, data were evaluated from patients with a personal history of a previous malignancy, and included inquiring into demographic data, history of neoplastic diseases in the 1st degree relatives, type and treatment of the previous malignancy, latency until the development of a secondary acute leukemia diagnosis, laboratory features, treatment and outcome at the onset of secondary acute leukemia.


Approximately 200 (5.1%) patients presented a previous malignancy. Twenty-one were affected by ALL and 179 by AML. The proportion of patients with secondary AML was higher than that of patients with secondary ALL (179/2964 vs 21/901, O.R. 2.69-95% C.I. 1.66-4.39, P<0.001). The median latency, from the onset of the previous malignancy to the development of secondary ALL was 27 months and to the development of secondary AML was 52 months (P<0.05). Furthermore, of patients who previously received chemotherapy more developed a second AML (66/127 sAML vs 5/21 sALL; O.R. 3.46-95% C.I. 1.10-11.56, P<0.01).


In most cases, chemotherapy treatment for a previous malignancy can play a role in the development of secondary AML. In almost all cases of secondary ALL, the role of previous drugs does not appear to be relevant. On the basis of our analysis, performed systematically for the first time on a large adult series of acute leukemia, we conclude that in these patients a biological predisposition to cancer may be suspected.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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