TREATMENT OF LOW-BLAST COUNT AML USING HYPOMETHYLATING AGENTS
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acute myeloid leukemia
In 2002, the WHO classification reduced the proportion of blasts in the bone marrow (BM) necessary for the diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) from 30% to 20%, eliminating the RAEB-t subtype of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). However, this AML subtype, defined as low-blast count AML (LBC-AML, with 20-30% BM-blasts) is characterized by peculiar features, as increased frequency in elderly individuals and after cytotoxic treatment for a different primary disease (therapy-related), poor-risk cytogenetics, lower white blood cell counts, and less frequent mutations of NPM1 and FLT3 genes. The clinical course of this entity is often similar to MDS with 10-19% BM-blasts. The hypomethylating agents azacitidine and decitabine have been shown to induce responses and prolong survival both in MDS and LBC-AML. The role of these agents has been also demonstrated in AML with >30% BM-blasts, particularly in patients with poor-risk cytogenetics and in AML with myelodysplasia related changes. Most recent studies are evaluating strategies to improve outcome, including combinations of hypomethylating agents with immune-response checkpoint inhibitors, which have a role in cancer immune surveillance. Efforts are also ongoing to identify mutations which may predict response and survival in these patients.