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Novel Agents for the Treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia in the Older Patient

Maria R. Baer and Ivana Gojo

The incidence of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) increases with age, with a median age at diagnosis of 67 years. Older patients have inferior responses to chemotherapy, including not only lower complete remission rates but also short disease-free survival in those who do achieve complete remission. For older patients with a high likelihood of response to chemotherapy, recent data support dose intensification and strong consideration of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. For those unlikely to benefit from chemotherapy because of disease- and/or patient-related factors, novel agents and approaches are being pursued. Agents currently available or under study include the nucleoside analogs clofarabine and sapacitabine, the demethylating agents decitabine and azacitidine, the immunomodulatory agent lenalidomide, and the farnesyl transferase inhibitor tipifarnib. These agents may be administered in the outpatient setting, thus AML in older patients is increasingly becoming an outpatient diagnosis. Additionally, novel agents may prolong survival without inducing complete remissions, and therefore the goals and end points of therapy are also shifting. AML in older patients is a very active current area of investigation.