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How Do We Know That Chemotherapy for AML Is Working?

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Published on March 15, 2016

At the 58th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting & Exposition, Dr Susan O'Brien, Professor in the Department of Leukemia at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer, explains that an aim of chemotherapy for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Watch now to learn more.

This programme has been supported by Pfizer, through an unrestricted educational grant to the Patient Empowerment Foundation


Transcript | How Do We Know That Chemotherapy for AML Is Working?

It does take a little while because every patient, I mentioned the blood counts will go down, and that’s, again, some of what makes the treatment complicated dealing with several-week period where the blood counts are very low. Generally, every… Even patients who may not go into remission, the blood counts will drop with chemo. The key is not just the blood counts dropping, but you actually get it all out of the bone marrow such that the bone marrow can now recover with the normal cells.


Many centres or trials will look at the bone marrow on day 14. Okay? Why? What you want to generally see is actually that it’s been emptied out. It still doesn’t ensure a cure, but if you see residual leukaemia by… At two weeks, that would be quite high risk. So you hope to see early on that the bone marrow’s empty. Now, again, that’s a good sign when it’s empty because you’ve gotten rid of the leukaemia. However, in some circumstances, leukaemia can come back. So even at day 14, you know if you have an empty bone marrow that that’s good, but you still… It’s still not a guarantee you’re going into remission.

So usually you’re really not going to know for sure for about three to four weeks when you would do another bone marrow and see is the bone marrow recovering with normal cells, or unfortunately, is the leukaemia, kind of, temporarily wiped out and then starting to come back.


So it does take a while to know if the treatment’s working, which, again, is why it’s important to be on the right path going in because if you are not on the right path, now it’s a good another month before you’re going to be able to potentially try, say, another treatment.

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