Treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
The following are used in the treatment of AML:
- Biological therapies
- High-dose therapy with stem cell transplant
Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your leukaemia. This is the main treatment for AML. You may need several courses of chemotherapy before the leukaemia is said to be in remission. This means there are no active signs of the disease.
The drugs are often used in combinations. Some common drugs used are:
- Cytarabine (Ara C)
Please see our Understanding Chemotherapy booklet, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more details.
These drugs use your body´s immune system to treat leukaemia. There are different types of biological therapies. For example, monoclonal antibodies. A common drug used in AML is gemtuzumab.
High-dose treatment with stem cell support
High doses of chemotherapy or radiotherapy can be given along with a stem cell transplant if the first treatment did not fully work or if the leukaemia returns. The aim is to give high doses of chemotherapy to destroy aml the blood cells in your bone marrow and replace them with stem cells. These stem cells can then grow into new healthy blood cells.
Before the high dose chemotherapy is given, the stem cells are taken from your bone marrow or your bloodstream (peripheral blood). If the cells are taken from you, it is known as an autologous transplant. If they are taken from someone else, it is known as an allogeneic transplant. For more information, see our booklets and factsheets:
- Understanding Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (pdf, 1.56MB)
- Understanding Stem Cell Collection (pdf, 2.08MB)
- Understanding Autologous Stem Cell Transplants (pdf, 1.82MB)
- Total Body Irradiation (pdf, 535KB)
The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Some treatments may cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation.
You might feel sick (nausea) and lose your appetite. Some treatments cause hair loss and most make you feel very tired (fatigue). Most side-effects do not last long and disappear once the treatment is over. Your doctor or nurse will discuss any possible side-effects with you before your treatment begins.
For more about coping with side-effects, see the booklets Understanding Chemotherapy, Understanding Radiotherapy, Coping with Fatigue, Diet and Cancer and Understanding Cancer and Complementary Therapies, all available to download under the "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page.
If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can advise you if the trial would suit you or not.
Call our National Cancer Helpline
Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm