Introduction on Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Executive Summary

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a disorder that generally produces neutrophils, red blood cells, or platelets, which are types of healthy blood cells. Acute myeloid leukemia begins in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of bones, where new blood cells are formed), but most often, it quickly moves into the blood. It occurs in all age groups but is most common in adults older than 65 years. It occurs in all age groups but is most common in adults above the age of 65 years.

The acquired mutation occurs in DNA in the blood-forming cells, or damage to the genetic material causes problems with the development of blood cells. These mutations and many blasts reduce the number of healthy blood cells involving platelets and red blood cells. Hence, it causes symptoms such as anemia from too few red blood cells, easy bleeding or bruising because of a low number of platelets, and infections because they don’t have enough mature neutrophils. It is usually found in the blood and bone marrow, the spongy, red tissue in the inner part of the large bones. AML cells can form a solid tumor called a myeloid sarcoma or chloroma that can develop anywhere in the body, known as extramedullary disease.

What is Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood. Leukaemia begins when healthy blood cells change and grow out of control. Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a disorder that generally produces neutrophils, red blood cells, or platelets, which are types of healthy blood cells. Acute myeloid leukaemia begins in the bone marrow (the soft inner part of bones, where new blood cells are formed), but most often, it quickly moves into the blood, as well ​1​. It can sometimes spread to other body parts, including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), and testicles. 

AML may sometimes be called acute myelogenous leukaemia, acute myelocytic leukaemia, or acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia. Unlike chronic leukaemia, acute leukaemia develops quickly and generally needs immediate treatment. AML occurs in all age groups but is most common in adults older than 65.

About neutrophils

Neutrophils are white blood cells with granules inside the cell, also known as mature granulocytes. Neutrophils help to fight infections caused by bacteria and other organisms. In differentiation, mature neutrophils grow from immature white blood cells, also known as progenitors. The production of mature neutrophils is highly regulated. For instance, the body rapidly makes more neutrophils during infection and returns to an average production level when the infection is under control.

About AML

In AML, DNA in the blood-forming cells or damage to the genetic material causes problems with the development of blood cells. This type of damage is known as acquired mutation. When blood cells do not develop as assumed, it causes a pile of immature cells called myeloblasts or blasts. Blasts don’t act like fully developed, healthy blood cells and do not help a person’s immune system work. These acquired mutations and a large number of blasts also reduce the number of healthy blood cells, including:

  • Platelets, which help the blood to clot
  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen

Therefore, people with AML are likely to have these symptoms ​2​:

  • Anemia from too few red blood cells
  • Easy bleeding or bruising because of a low number of platelets
  • Infections because they don’t have enough mature neutrophils

AML is usually found in the blood and bone marrow, the spongy, red tissue in the inner part of the large bones. It can sometimes spread to other body parts, such as the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, brain, skin, and gums. Occasionally, AML cells can form a solid tumor called a myeloid sarcoma or chloroma that can develop anywhere in the body. This is often called extramedullary disease ​3​.

References

  1. 1.
    Saultz J, Garzon R. Acute Myeloid Leukemia: A Concise Review. JCM. Published online March 5, 2016:33. doi:10.3390/jcm5030033
  2. 2.
    M. Nix, PharmD, BCPS, BCOP N, Price, MPAS, PA-C A. Acute Myeloid Leukemia: An Ever-Changing Disease. JADPRO. Published online December 1, 2019. doi:10.6004/jadpro.2019.10.8.12
  3. 3.
    Ganzel C, Manola J, Douer D, et al. Extramedullary Disease in Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia Is Common but Lacks Independent Significance: Analysis of Patients in ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group Trials, 1980-2008. JCO. Published online October 10, 2016:3544-3553. doi:10.1200/jco.2016.67.5892