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Classification of acute myeloid leukemia

Charles A Schiffer, MD
John Anastasi, MD
Section Editor
Richard A Larson, MD
Deputy Editor
Rebecca F Connor, MD


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML, also known as acute myelogenous leukemia and, less commonly, as acute non-lymphocytic leukemia) consists of a group of relatively well-defined hematopoietic neoplasms involving precursor cells committed to the myeloid line of cellular development (ie, those giving rise to granulocytic, monocytic, erythroid, or megakaryocytic elements).

AML is characterized by a clonal proliferation of myeloid precursors with a reduced capacity to differentiate into more mature cellular elements. As a result, there is an accumulation of leukemic blasts or immature forms in the bone marrow, peripheral blood, and occasionally in other tissues, with a variable reduction in the production of normal red blood cells, platelets, and mature granulocytes. The increased production of malignant cells, along with a reduction in these mature elements, results in a variety of systemic consequences including anemia, bleeding, and an increased risk of infection. (See "Clinical manifestations, pathologic features, and diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia" and "Pathogenesis of acute myeloid leukemia".)

Following diagnosis, AML is classified using the World Health Organization (WHO) classification system based upon a combination of morphology, immunophenotype, genetics, and clinical features [1]. The classification attempts to identify biologic entities in the hopes that future work will elucidate molecular pathways that might be amenable to targeted therapies.

There are four main groups of AML recognized in this classification system [1-3]:

AML with recurrent genetic abnormalities


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Dec 17, 2015.
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