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Blood. 2015 Jul 16;126(3):319-27. doi: 10.1182/blood-2014-10-551911. Epub 2015 Apr 7.

How I treat refractory and early relapsed acute myeloid leukemia.

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Department of Hematology, Hemostasis, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplantation, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany; and.
Department of Internal Medicine III, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany.


Between 10% and 40% of newly diagnosed patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) do not achieve complete remission with intensive induction therapy and are therefore categorized as primary refractory or resistant. Few of these patients can be cured with conventional salvage therapy. They need to be evaluated regarding eligibility for allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) as this is currently the treatment with the highest probability of cure. To reduce the leukemia burden prior to transplantation, salvage chemotherapy regimens need to be employed. Whenever possible, refractory/relapsed patients should be enrolled in clinical trials as we do not have highly effective and standardized treatments for this situation. Novel therapies include tyrosine kinase inhibitors, small-molecule inhibitors (e.g., for Polo-like kinase 1 and aminopeptidase), inhibitors of mutated isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) 1 and IDH2, antibody-based therapies, and cell-based therapies. Although the majority of these therapies are still under evaluation, they are likely to enter clinical practice rapidly as a bridge to transplant and/or in older, unfit patients who are not candidates for allogeneic HSCT. In this review, we describe our approach to refractory/early relapsed AML, and we discuss treatment options for patients with regard to different clinical conditions and molecular profiles.

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