Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Leukemia, white blood cancer, capers, blood disease


This type of leukaemia is one of the acute leukaemias with a rapid course of disease. It is characterised by the fact that the degenerated cells originate from a very early stage of development, i.e. they are immature. These cells develop from a cell line that originates from the bone marrow (myeloid).

The cells of the early stage of development are called blasts. These blasts multiply in the bone marrow and blood. In acute myeloid leukaemia, an uncontrolled proliferation of immature and functionless blood precursor cells occurs in the bone marrow.

In healthy people, there is a precise regulation and balance between development and maturation or differentiation into fully functional blood cells. In contrast, maturation is impaired in AML. For several years, the therapy of acute promyelocytic leukaemia, a special form of AML, has taken advantage of this fact. For example, the chemotherapeutic agent ATRA promotes the maturation of the leukaemia cells into functional blood cells.


There are three to four new cases per 100000 inhabitants per year. It is mainly adult patients who are affected by the disease, the number of new cases is 15 per 100000 inhabitants. The rate of AML leukemia in children is about 20% of acute leukemias.

Children rarely suffer from acute myeloid leukaemia. Only about 20% of childhood leukaemias fall into this subtype. Acute lymphatic leukaemia (ALL) can be observed much more frequently in children.

In principle, AML can occur at any age, but infants and toddlers fall ill particularly frequently in the first two years of life. For reasons as yet unknown, boys are more likely to develop the disease than girls. Children with Down’s syndrome (trisomy 21) have a significantly increased risk of the disease.

As in adult patients, affected children also develop the first identical signs of the disease within a few weeks. Toddlers occasionally stand out due to their unwillingness to play and laziness to walk. To confirm the diagnosis, the bone marrow puncture is performed under anaesthesia. The main component of therapy is chemotherapy. If the central nervous system is affected, the skull may have to be irradiated.


See the general chapter on leukemia.

Origin of the disease

Above all, irregularities (aberrations) in the human genome (chromosome set) have been identified as triggers of AML and the findings of cell genetics are also the most important factor for the prognosis of the patient. There are aberrations with a good and aberrations with a bad prognosis. The uncontrolled, unchecked growth of the degenerated progenitor cells is so pronounced that other cells or progenitor cells in the bone marrow have no room to develop.

These “normal” cells are therefore displaced. This explains the frequent poverty of red blood cells (anaemia) in AML patients. If more than 30% of the blasts are present in the bone marrow, then the definition of acute leukemia is given. This could also be interesting for you: Chromosome mutation