Disease Information

Leukemias / Lymphomas: Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia

Alternate Names: APL, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) M3; leukemia, acute promyelocytic

What is acute promyelocytic leukemia?

In acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), the bone marrow produces too many cells called promyelocytes. When too many promyelocytes gather in the marrow, they crowd out healthy blood cells. If there are not enough healthy blood cells to do their jobs, patients are at high risk for infection or bleeding.

APL is a subtype of the cancer acute myeloid leukemia (AML). About 4 to 8 percent of all childhood AML is acute promyelocytic leukemia.

How common is acute promyelocytic leukemia?

Around 1 percent of all childhood leukemias are APL, which is most often diagnosed in children of Hispanic or Mediterranean descent. It is very rare in children younger than 3. The average age of diagnosis is 8 to 10 years. An APL diagnosis should be considered a medical emergency. If you have been told that your child may have APL, the child needs medical attention right away.

What are the symptoms of acute promyelocytic leukemia?

If your child has APL, the following symptoms may be present:

How is acute promyelocytic leukemia treated?

Treatment of APL differs from treatments for other forms of leukemia. Many children with APL require admission to the intensive care unit because of problems that occur when treatment begins.

In general, treatment of APL has three phases:

Because this three-phase treatment is usually successful, stem cell transplantation (which helps grow healthy blood-forming cells) is not usually done.

If APL returns, most children can be put into a second remission using arsenic trioxide, alone or combined with chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation.

What is the survival rate for acute promyelocytic leukemia?

At least 85–90 percent of children treated for APL are considered cured.

Why choose St. Jude for your child’s acute promyelocytic leukemia treatment?


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