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  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a malignancy originating in the lymphohematopoietic stem cell or a closely related multipotential hematopoietic cell.

  • It is characterized by clonal proliferation of leukemic blast cells in the marrow and impaired production of normal blood cells, resulting in anemia; thrombocytopenia; and low, normal, or high white cell counts depending on the concentration of leukemic cells in the blood.

  • AML occurs in nine morphologic (phenotypic) variants, each with characteristic cytologic, genetic, and sometimes clinical features.

  • It has been found to have innumerable (>150) mutated genetic driver and cooperating oncogenes.


  • The chronic clonal myeloid diseases may undergo clonal evolution to AML (eg, polycythemia vera, Chap. 42; essential thrombocythemia, Chap. 43; myelofibrosis, Chap. 48; myelodysplastic syndromes, Chap. 45; the chronic myelogenous leukemias, Chap. 47).

  • AML develops with increased frequency in patients with certain congenital (Down syndrome) or inherited abnormalities (eg, Fanconi anemia, familial platelet syndrome) as shown in Table 46–1.

  • Nonsyndromic, familial occurrence, indicating an inherited predisposition gene, has been documented but is very uncommon.

  • Most cases arise de novo and are associated with acquired cytogenetic changes, including translocation, inversions, deletions, and other forms of aneuploidy or pseudodiploidy. These changes lead to the mutation of proto-oncogenes and the formation of oncogenes. Frequently, the latter encode mutant transcription factors resulting in disruption of cell signaling pathways that cause malignant transformation.

  • In the absence of chromosome abnormalities, one can identify specific gene mutations in most cases that account for the disruption in normal hematopoiesis and the establishment of a leukemic clone.

  • Thus, AML results from a series of somatic mutations in a multipotential hematopoietic cell or, in a small proportion of cases, a more differentiated, lineage-restricted progenitor cell. In acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), some cases of monocytic leukemia, and some young persons with other forms of AML, the disease may originate in a mutated granulocytic-monocytic progenitor cell.

  • The mutations resulting in AML disrupt stem cell differentiation and unilineage progenitor maturation and regulation of proliferation and of cell survival (apoptosis) in varying combinations. This complexity results in many phenotypes.


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