The pharmacological therapy of non-promyelocytic acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has remained unchanged for over 40 years with an anthracycline-cytarabine combination forming the backbone of induction treatments. Nevertheless, the survival of younger patients has increased due to improved management of the toxicity of therapies including stem cell transplantation. Older patients and those with infirmity that precludes treatment-intensification have however not benefited from improvements in supportive care and continue to experience poor outcomes. An increased understanding of the genomic heterogeneity of AML raises the possibility of treatment-stratification to improve prognosis. Thus, efforts to identify agents with non-conventional anti-leukemic effects have paralleled those aiming to optimise leukemia cell-kill with conventional chemotherapy, resulting in a number of randomized controlled trials (RCT). In the last 18 months, RCT investigating the effects of vosaroxin, azacitidine and gemtuzumab ozogamycin and daunorubicin-dose have been reported with some studies indicating a statistically significant survival benefit with the investigational agent compared to standard therapy and potentially, a new era in AML therapeutics. Given the increasing costs of cancer care, a review of these studies, with particular attention to the magnitude of clinical benefit with the newer agents would be useful, especially for physicians treating patients in single-payer health systems.
- gemtuzumab ozogamicin