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Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a form of blood cancer, which affects the white blood cells known as myeloid cells. It is a rapidly progressing form of leukaemia.

Blood cells are formed in the bone marrow, which is the spongy tissue found inside the bones. Blood-forming stem cells divide to produce either more stem cells or immature cells that become mature blood cells over time.

A myeloid stem cell becomes one of three types of mature blood cells:

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) exists in different forms depending on which type of myeloid cell is being produced. The most important subtype is called acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL). APL makes up about one in ten cases of AML; it is important because it is treated very differently. A special test can detect a characteristic genetic abnormality in APL.

Acute leukaemia progresses rapidly, unless effectively treated but, especially in younger or fitter patients, it can often be cured with standard treatments.

  • Published: Aug 2016
  • Next planned review: Aug 2018