When a person has acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and is a younger adult (meaning under 60) in decent health otherwise, the normal course of treatment is what’s referred to as induction chemotherapy, Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, the Director of the Leukemia Program at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet.
The goal is to induce remission by drastically reducing the number of leukemia cells in the body. Two chemotherapy drugs — Daunorubicin or Idarubicin and Ara-C — are given during this phase of treatment. Ara-C is given for seven days straight in the first week of treatment, while the Daunorubicin or Idarubicin is given for three days as a 10-minute IV push.
“It’s a grand total of seven, plus three days that are overlapping,” Dr. Sekeres says. “Seven days total that a person receives chemotherapy. Now, this chemotherapy is not very elegant. The goal is to kill the leukemia cells, but it’s not that accurate, so it also kills the other bone marrow cells.”
Because the chemotherapy kills other healthy cells as well, people getting this induction chemotherapy will become extremely immuno-compromised — which leads to longer hospital stays.
“Because that person’s immune system is so compromised, and their requirement for [blood] transfusions is so huge, they remain in the hospital for four to six weeks total,” Dr. Sekeres says.
Which treatment route a person with AML will take depends on their overall health and their specific disease. There have been some pretty incredible breakthroughs in treatment options in recent decades.
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