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Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Childhood acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow produces a large number of abnormal blood cells. AML is also called acute myelogenous leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. Only about 500 children are diagnosed with AML in the United States each year. However, AML is the most common second cancer that occurs in children first treated for other types of cancer.

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What is AML?

AML starts in the bone marrow where new blood cells are made, but often quickly moves into the bloodstream. This cancer can spread to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the testicles. In general, AML develops from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells. However, AML can also develop in other types of blood-forming cells such as platelets or red blood cells.

Designated as an acute form of cancer, childhood AML gets worse quickly if not treated early on. Refractory cases of childhood AML – cases that do not respond to initial treatment – can be particularly difficult to cure and may require treatment with a stem cell transplant.

What Are the Symptoms of Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

Childhood acute myeloid leukemia symptoms can include:

  • Fever with or without an infection
  • Weight loss
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Pain in bones or joints
  • Swollen glands
  • Poor appetite
  • Painless lumps (called leukemia cutis) in the neck, underarm, stomach, groin or other parts of the body; these lumps may be blue or purple
  • Painless lumps (called chloromas) around the eyes; these lumps may be blue-green

Many of the symptoms of AML can be caused by other conditions, including other myeloid malignancies that affect the blood and bone marrow (such as transient abnormal myelopoiesis, juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, and chronic myelogenous leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes). If your child experiences any of the above symptoms, be sure to take them to see a healthcare provider.

Why Choose Rainbow for the Treatment of Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

The pediatric oncologists at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute are passionate about improving the outcomes for children, adolescents and young adults with cancer. We are at the forefront of the latest advancements in childhood cancer treatments, with outcomes that rank among the best in the country. Fully integrated with UH Seidman Cancer Center and the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Angie’s Institute offers nationally renowned cancer treatment programs that encompass routine and complex care for every stage of the disease.

New Hope Through Immunotherapy

The Center for Pediatric Immunotherapy at Angie’s Institute was established to advance the application of immunotherapy, a medical treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer and other conditions in babies, children, adolescents and young adults. Immunotherapy shows significant promise in treating childhood cancers such as AML and reducing the damaging, long-term side effects associated with traditional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.

Among the promising immunotherapeutic approaches under investigation for the treatment of childhood AML is the therapeutic use of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells, which are T lymphocytes harvested from patient's own blood. CAR-T cells are engineered to detect specific markers on cancer cells in order to mount an immune response and kill malignant cells. Another example is the use of natural killer (NK) cells, which are cells harvested from the blood of one of the patient’s parents. When circulating in the bloodstream, NK cells recognize and attach to the AML cell walls, leading to their destruction.

Diagnosis & Treatments

At UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s, we use advanced diagnostics and novel therapies to diagnose and treat childhood acute myeloid leukemia.

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