Treatment of acute myeloid leukemia in older patients
Acute myeloid leukemia carries a dismal prognosis in patients over 60 years of age and, despite many clinical trials of both novel and conventional agents, there has been no significant improvement in overall survival during the last 30 years. Combinations of anthracyclines and cytarabine remain the cornerstone of therapy and produce complete remission in 45-55% of older patients, with a median survival of only 8-12 months. These statistics become even worse in patients over 70 years and those with unfavorable cytogenetics and/or poor performance status. Deciding which older acute myeloid leukemia patients would benefit from intensive chemotherapy is difficult and efforts are underway to improve existing risk-assessment tools. Many new agents are under development, including signal transduction inhibitors, farnesyl transferase inhibitors, antibodies and novel chemotherapeutics. To date, small-molecule inhibitors and targeted therapies have had limited single-agent efficacy and have required combination with chemotherapy. The role of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in older patients is under investigation. All patients over 60 years of age with acute myeloid leukemia should be encouraged to participate in a clinical trial if possible.