Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that is characterized by the proliferation of abnormal white blood cells, specifically immature cells called promyelocytes. These cells accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells, leading to symptoms of anemia, infection, and bleeding.
APL is caused by a genetic mutation in bone marrow cells that results in the abnormal proliferation of promyelocytes. This mutation can be triggered by exposure to certain chemicals or radiation, but in most cases, the cause is unknown. APL is more common in adults than in children, and it is estimated to affect around 10-15% of all AML cases.
Symptoms of APL may include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, fever, and bleeding or bruising easily. APL is a medical emergency, and patients require immediate treatment to prevent life-threatening complications such as bleeding in the brain, lung or other organs.
The diagnosis of APL is based on a combination of physical examination, blood tests, and bone marrow biopsy. The gold standard treatment for APL is all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), a medication that works by inducing differentiation of the malignant cells and promoting their death. ATRA is often used in combination with other chemotherapy agents to maximize the response and minimize the risk of relapse. In some cases, a stem cell transplant may be recommended as a curative treatment option.
Overall, the prognosis for APL has improved significantly in recent years due to advances in diagnosis and treatment. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate therapy, the majority of patients with APL can achieve remission and go on to live long, healthy lives.