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Oncology (Williston Park). 2011 Jul;25(8):733-41.

Treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia without cytotoxic chemotherapy.

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Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065, USA.


The introduction of all-trans retinoic acid, or ATRA, in 1985, combined with anthracycline-based chemotherapy, has transformed acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) from a fatal disease to one that is now highly curable. With appropriate contemporary therapy, more than 90% of patients achieve complete remission, and cure rates of approximately 80% and higher response and survival rates can be expected for patients at low and intermediate risk. The introduction of arsenic trioxide, or ATO, in 1994 has provided the opportunity to minimize and even eliminate standard cytotoxic chemotherapy from initial treatment regimens without compromising the excellent outcomes achieved by anthracycline-containing protocols. APL is a unique subtype of acute myeloid leukemia that is curable with targeted therapies and potentially without exposure to conventional DNA-damaging chemotherapy. The omission of conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy may reduce long-term complications such as cardiomyopathy and therapy-related myelodysplastic syndromes. Cure rates of APL may be further increased by adopting management strategies to reduce early hemorrhagic deaths, which now appear to be the major cause of treatment failure.

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