What is the cause and treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia?
Q: I lost my 18-year-old son suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). What are the reasons for getting AML? How can it be prevented and what is the treatment for it?
A:I am very sorry to learn of your bereavement and can well imagine your state of mind. Unfortunately, acute myeloid leukaemia as a disease, even with current standard chemotherapy regimens, has a 5-year survival rate of only about 25-30%, which is considered a cure. The prognosis is governed by several factors including age of the patient, a prior history of an antecedent haematologic disease (usually a myelodysplastic syndrome), cytogenetic abnormalities and mutations. In this disease, the precursor cells of blood (blasts) get arrested at an early stage of development likely due to activation of abnormal genes caused by changes in the chromosomes, which carry these genes. This leads to diminished production of normal blood cells–red blood cells (leading to anaemia), white blood cells (predisposing to infections) and platelets (causing bleeding) and accumulation of abnormal cells in different body organs impairing their function. It is still not known what leads to this disease as most patients have no identifiable risk factors. Among the factors implicated are: