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Mediterr J Hematol Infect Dis. 2011;3(1):e2011052. doi: 10.4084/MJHID.2011.052. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

Similarities and differences between therapy-related and elderly acute myeloid leukemia.

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Istituto di Ematologia, Università Cattolica Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy.


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a clonal disorder of the hematopoietic stem cell, typical of the elderly, with a median age of over 60 years at diagnosis. In AML, older age is one of the strongest independent adverse prognostic factor, associated with decreased complete response rate, worse disease-free and overall survival, with highest rates of treatment related mortality, resistant disease and relapse, compared to younger patients. Outcomes are compromised in older patients not only by increased comorbidities and susceptibility to toxicity from therapy, but it is now recognized that elderly AML has peculiar biologic characteristics with a negative impact on treatment response.In older individuals prolonged exposure to environmental carcinogens may be the basis for similarities to therapy-related myeloid malignancies (t-MN), which result from toxic effects of previous cytotoxic treatments on hematopoietic stem cells. Age is itself a risk factor for t-MN, which are more frequent in elderly patients, where also a shorter latency between treatment of primary tumor and t-MN has been reported. t-MN following chemotherapy with alkylating agents and elderly AML frequently present MDS-related cytogenetic abnormalities, including complex or monosomal karyotype, and a myelodysplastic phase preceding the diagnosis of overt leukemia. Similarly, t-MN and elderly-AML share common molecular abnormalities, such as reduced frequency of NPM1, FLT3 and CEBPA mutations and increased MDR1 expression.Given the unfavorable prognosis of elderly and t-MN and the similar clinical and molecular aspects, this is a promising field for implementation of new treatment protocols including alternative biological drugs.

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