Refractory Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)

Refractory Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is an aggressive blood cancer that affects white blood cells and red blood cells in the bone marrow. It is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults and accounts for about 10-25% of all leukemias. When initial treatments, such as chemotherapy or hematopoietic stem cell transplants, are unable to control AML, it is referred to as "refractory". Refractory AML is difficult to treat and has a poor prognosis.


The symptoms of refractory AML vary for each individual, but may include: fatigue, shortness of breath, anemia, easy bruising or bleeding, frequent infections, fever, chills, night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite, pain in the bones or joints, and swollen lymph nodes.


Refractory AML is usually diagnosed through a series of tests, including a complete blood count, a bone marrow biopsy to identify blasts, and genetic testing of bone marrow or peripheral blood samples. In some cases, imaging tests may also be performed to identify the location and extent of the leukemia.


Treatment for refractory AML is often complex and multidimensional. It may include:

  • Targeted small molecule therapies, including kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies
  • Immunotherapy and other biologic agents
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplants
  • Experimental therapies such as enzyme replacement, cytokine therapy, gene therapy, and other emerging treatments
  • Clinical trials for the exploration of new treatments
  • Supportive care, including pain relief and symptom management

The most effective treatment plan for each individual with refractory AML will depend on their age, overall health status, and the results of diagnostic tests.


Unfortunately, refractory AML is generally difficult to treat and has a poorer outlook than other types of AML. With advanced treatments and customized care, some patients have been able to enjoy extended remissions and even cures. It is important to understand that the outlook for each individual patient will depend on a variety of factors, including their age, overall health, and the stage of the disease.