What is the pathophysiology of acute myeloid leukemia (AML)?

Updated: May 26, 2020
  • Author: Karen Seiter, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Answer

The underlying pathophysiology in AML consists of a maturational arrest of bone marrow cells in the earliest stages of development. The mechanism of this arrest is under study, but in many cases, it involves the activation or inactivation of genes through chromosomal translocations and other genetic and/or epigenetic abnormalities. [1, 2, 3]

This developmental arrest results in 2 disease processes. First, the production of normal blood cells markedly decreases, which results in varying degrees of anemia, thrombocytopenia, and neutropenia. Second, the rapid proliferation of the abnormal myeloblasts, along with a reduction in their ability to undergo programmed cell death (apoptosis), results in their accumulation in the bone marrow, the blood, and, frequently, the spleen and liver.


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