What types of AML are there?
Advances in AML research have shown that AML is not a single disease but rather a disease of many types. These different types of AML can depend on:
how developed the abnormal leukemia cells are at the time they are detected;
the kind of proteins on the surface of the abnormal leukemia cells;
how different they are from normal cells; and
the specific type of genetic abnormality present
Knowing your specific type of AML can determine your outlook and help your doctor to decide your unique treatment.
Gene changes in AML
Changes to specific genes (mutations) are found in many cases of AML and these can lead to specific types of AML. These types of changes can help abnormal cells grow out of control. Some of these gene changes are associated with better outcomes while some are more aggressive and are associated with poorer outcomes.
The most common genes that become abnormal in AML include FLT3, IDH1, IDH2, NPM1, DNMT3A, CEBPA, TET2, and KIT. It is important to know whether one or more of these genes are abnormal in your AML as this can identify your type of AML and help to tailor a unique treatment for you.
Ask your doctor about your specific type of AML.
Chromosomal changes in AML
Several types of changes in chromosomes take place in some cases of AML and these chromosomal changes can affect your outlook and how you respond to treatment. These include:
chromosomal translocations – these happen when a part of a chromosome breaks and sticks to a different chromosome;
chromosomal deletions – these happen when a part of a chromosome is lost, and can lead to losing a gene that controls growth in blood cells;
chromosomal inversions – these happen when the chromosome is inverted and so the blood cell cannot get the right instructions, which can lead to abnormalities; and
chromosomal additions and duplications – these happen when there is an extra chromosome which can produce an abnormal gene.
Knowing the type of chromosomal change in the AML can help the doctor decide the best treatment option for you.
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL)
Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a unique type of AML, which is common in middle-aged adults. For unknown reasons, certain changes can lead two chromosomes (chromosomes 15 and 17) to stick together, which leads to an abnormal fusion gene called PML/RARα. This abnormal gene can lead to producing too many immature white blood cells (promyelocytes) in the bone marrow. These promyelocytes lead to a significant reduction in mature healthy blood cells.
You're not alone
There are several resources that are available for you. These can provide further in-depth information about acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and also offer you support.