Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Treatment

Acute myeloid leukemia (also known as acute myelogenous leukemia or AML) is fast-growing and requires prompt treatment. While treatment should begin soon after diagnosis, it can be helpful to get a second opinion if time safely allows. This can provide more information or other treatment options.1

The type of treatment is based on several factors, including:1-3

  • The particular subtype of AML
  • The age and general health of the person with AML

Different subtypes of AML can have varying responses to treatment. Treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of AML that is identified by a translocation of chromosomes 15 and 17, is different than other forms of AML.1-3

Types of treatment for acute myeloid leukemia

Different types of treatment may be used for AML, including:1

  • Chemotherapy
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Targeted therapy
  • Antibody-based therapy


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to stop cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by targeting fast-growing cells, such as cancer cells. However, there are other fast-growing cells in the body that can also be affected, such as those in the gastrointestinal tract and hair.1,2

Chemotherapy drugs may be used along with other drugs or alone. They may be taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle.1,2

Stem cell transplant

A stem cell transplant uses high doses of chemotherapy, which destroys cancer cells. Next, bone marrow stem cells are replaced. The replacement stem cells may be provided by a donor. This is called an allogeneic transplant. Or, the stem cells of the person with cancer may be removed from the bone marrow or blood before they receive chemotherapy. This is called an autologous transplant. Transplant in AML is usually allogeneic, not autologous.2

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapies are cancer treatments that block or slow the spread of cancer. They do this by interfering with specific areas of cancer cells involved in cell growth or by focusing on specific features that are unique to cancer cells.1,2

While chemotherapy drugs often kill cancer cells, targeted therapy usually blocks the growth of cancer cells. Targeted therapies may be used along with chemotherapy to treat certain types of AML.1,2

Antibody-based therapy

Antibody-based therapy is a treatment option. Gemtuzumab-ozogamicin and mylotarg are approved and many others are in clinical trials.

Treatment phases

Treatment for AML is generally categorized by phases:3
Induction and consolidation are only when intensive chemotherapy is used:

  • Induction therapy, which is treatment that is started soon after diagnosis
  • Consolidation therapy, which may be given after induction to reduce the risk of a relapse

Other types of treatment may also be used:

  • Induction, consolidation, either with or without maintenance as a curative strategy
  • Non-curative strategies where patients are given medications to control the leukemia and improve blood counts (e.g. hypomethylating agent + venetoclax)

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are a type of research where new treatments are studied. Clinical trials are an important part of the scientific process to find and prove the safety and effectiveness of new treatments. They offer people a chance to receive the latest treatments and be closely monitored by doctors. You can learn more about clinical trials by talking to your doctor or visiting the website. Your doctor can help you decide if a clinical trial may be right for you.1,3,4

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Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: March 2022