Annals of hematology

Management of elderly patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia: progress and problems.

PMID 23694997


Despite substantial progress in the management and outcome of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) during the last decades, older age remains a prominent negative prognostic factor. The improvement of long-term stabilization and cure of older APL patients is therefore a particular challenge. Data of unselected population-based studies suggest a high rate of exclusion from clinical trials in older age. The comparison of registry and study data indicates that study patients represent a positive selection. Older APL patients seem as sensitive to therapy as younger patients. With conventional therapy, based on all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) and chemotherapy, over 50 % of older APL patients can probably be cured. Special problems of advanced age are the high rate of early death before or during induction therapy and the high frequency of death in remission with negative influence on the outcome. Both may be related in part to a higher vulnerability against the common treatment with ATRA and chemotherapy. Alternative less toxic approaches including arsenic trioxide (ATO) with or without ATRA and combinations with gemtuzumab ozogamicin or with reduced chemotherapy can induce long-lasting remission in all stages of APL. Considering the high curative potential and the excellent tolerance of ATO in newly diagnosed and relapsed APL, older patients are probably a particular target group for a chemotherapy-free approach with ATO.