To transplant or not: A dilemma for treatment of elderly AML patients in the twenty-first century

C. Ustun, H. M. Lazarus, D. Weisdorf

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


AML treatment presents significant challenges in the elderly, who more often have poor risk cytogenetic and molecular markers, comorbidities and compromised performance status. Although population-based studies indicate that treated patients' survival is better than those who are not treated, there is an understandable reluctance of physicians to choose aggressive therapy. Even in this older population 40-60% CR rates are achievable. Several scoring systems and web-based programs help to predict TRM and CR rates. These sources can assist physicians in the difficult decision-making process of aggressive therapy in an individual patient. Clofarabine and hypomethylating agents are reasonable options and can induce CR in patients who cannot receive standard induction with anthracyclines and cytarabine. Despite encouraging CR rates, median survival remains short (<12 months) in elderly AML patients. Even those patients achieving CR have limited long-term survival (∼20% at 3 years) without allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHCT). AlloHCT is feasible and can provide approximately 40% survival at 2 years in appropriately selected patients. Although increased age is associated with poorer survival, higher comorbidities and poor performance status have more negative impact than age per se. The short duration of CR demands that leukemia and transplant physicians collaborate immediately after diagnosis to move quickly toward alloHCT. This collaboration is also essential to choosing the right individuals to transplant and to bridging post-remission therapy (intermediate-dose cytarabine, a hypomethylating agent or FLT-3 inhibitor) in this sometimes frail population. Future studies should be designed not only to address who should receive alloHCT, but also to improve our understanding of AML biology and the process of its cure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1497-1505
Number of pages9
JournalBone marrow transplantation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • AML
  • allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation
  • old


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