Leukemia

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the bone marrow and the blood. It’s a fast-growing type of leukemia and is the most common type of acute leukemia affecting adults.

In AML, abnormal white blood cells build up in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. 

Without treatment, AML progresses rapidly. However, for some patients, AML is curable.  

UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center offers treatments for patients with AML that they can’t get anywhere else in the region. Our physicians have the highest levels of expertise in diagnosing the disease and identifying the most effective and promising treatment plan. 

We perform intense laboratory studies to help us better understand leukemia and develop therapeutic clinical trials that target molecular weaknesses and harness the immune system. One current trial is the Beat AML initiative

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of AML include fatigue, easy bruising and bleeding, shortness of breath, and weight loss. Sometimes, no symptoms are present. 

If AML is suspected based on a physical exam and symptoms, we’ll order additional tests that include:

  • Blood and molecular analysis, which assess the numbers, types, and shapes of blood cells, as well as other characteristics that could indicate leukemia
  • Bone marrow biopsy to detect leukemia cells in the bone marrow 

An accurate diagnosis is critical to developing an effective treatment plan. At UT Southwestern, we work with specialized pathologists called hematopathologists who are uniquely trained to identify and classify blood cancers. 

Risk factors for developing AML include diagnosis of another type of blood disorder, exposure to chemicals or ionizing radiation, and genetics. 

How Cancer Saved My Life

When Melissa Rufino was diagnosed with leukemia, she moved from Austin to Dallas to receive care from UT Southwestern’s Dr. Robert Collins, who determined she’d need a bone marrow transplant to survive. A 21-year-old donor from New York and a talented team at UT Southwestern brought her back from the brink.

Treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Treatment for AML often includes a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and sometimes bone marrow transplantation. We offer particular expertise in:

  • Chemotherapy, which delivers drugs through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body
  • Molecular targeted therapies, which include first identifying the cell mutations causing the disease and then administering drugs to attack those particular cell mutations 
  • Bone marrow transplantation, a process that destroys harmful cells and replaces them with healthy cells from a donor. UT Southwestern has the top survival rate for bone marrow transplants in Texas
  • Adoptive immunotherapy, which involves manipulating a patient’s immune system so it attacks cancer cells

Our team of AML experts works with each patient to come up with a personalized treatment plan.

Support During and After Treatment

Our care teams offer nutritional, spiritual, and transitional guidance from the start of a patient’s journey, through treatment and beyond. The overall physical and emotional well-being of our patients is vital to achieving a positive outcome. Learn more about our support services.