How does acute myeloid leukemia (AML) develop in patients exposed to chemotherapy agents?

Updated: May 26, 2020
  • Author: Karen Seiter, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Patients with previous exposure to chemotherapeutic agents can be divided into 2 groups: (1) those with previous exposure to alkylating agents and (2) those with exposure to topoisomerase-II inhibitors. The typical latency period between drug exposure and acute leukemia is approximately 3-5 years for alkylating agents/radiation exposure, but it is only 9-12 months for topoisomerase inhibitors.

Patients with a previous exposure to alkylating agents, with or without radiation, often have a myelodysplastic phase before the development of AML. Cytogenetics testing frequently reveals -5 and/or -7 (5q- or monosomy 7).

Patients with a previous exposure to topoisomerase-II inhibitors do not have a myelodysplastic phase. Cytogenetics testing reveals a translocation that involves band 11q23. Less commonly, these patients develop leukemia with other balanced translocations, such as inversion 16 or t(15;17). [14]

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