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Types of acute myeloid leukaemia

Men and women discussing acute myeloid leukaemia

This page is about the different types of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Types of acute myeloid leukaemia

Doctors divide acute leukaemias into myeloid and lymphoblastic leukaemias. But they also divide them into even smaller groups or subtypes. This is called classification. There are 2 classification systems for AML. Doctors plan your treatment according to the particular subtype of leukaemia you have.

Your doctors look at your leukaemia cells under a microscope and do a number of tests to find which group your leukaemia is in.

Granulocytic sarcoma

In acute myeloid leukaemia, a lump of cells can collect outside the bone marrow. This is called a granulocyctic sarcoma. You can get these anywhere in the body.

A mixture of types

Some leukaemias seem to be a mixture of AML and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Doctors call these acute biphenotypic leukaemias. Biphenotypic means both types and is extremely rare. 

 

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Groups of AML

Doctors divide acute leukaemias into myeloid and lymphoblastic leukaemias. But they also divide them into even smaller groups or subtypes. This is called classification. Doctors plan your treatment according to the particular subtype of leukaemia you have.

There are different classification systems. One is the FAB system, which stands for French - American - British classification system. Your leukaemia’s FAB type depends on

  • What your leukaemia cells look like under a microscope
  • The antibody markers on the leukaemia cells

There are 8 types of AML in the FAB system – M0 to M7. All these types have names as well as numbers. We have listed the names below as you may hear your doctors use them

  • M0, M1 and M2 are all myeloblastic leukaemia and together make up more than half of all AML cases (50%)
  • M3 is called acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL) and makes up 1 in 10 cases (10%) of adult AML
  • M4 is called acute myelomonocytic leukaemia and makes up 1 in 5 AML cases (20%)
  • M5 is called acute monocytic leukaemia and makes up about 15 out of 100 cases (15%) of AML
  • M6 is called acute erythroleukaemia and M7 is called acute megakaryocytic leukaemia – both are very rare

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classification system divides AML into groups according to the type of myeloid cell that has become abnormal and whether

  • There are particular genetic (chromosomal) changes in the leukaemia cells
  • The leukaemia developed from a blood disorder
  • More than one type of blood cell has abnormal changes
  • The AML developed after other cancer treatment

Your doctors look at your leukaemia cells under a microscope to find which WHO or FAB group your leukaemia is in. They also do tests for particular proteins that some types of leukaemia cells make. This is called immunophenotyping. And they look at any chromosome changes in your leukaemia cells (called cytogenetic testing).

 

Granulocytic sarcoma

In acute myeloid leukaemia, a lump of cells can collect outside the bone marrow. This is called a granulocyctic sarcoma (gran-yoo-low-sit-ik sar-coma). You can get these anywhere in the body.

 

Mixture of types

Some leukaemias seem to be a mixture of AML and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). The abnormal cells have particular proteins called markers for both ALL and AML. Doctors call these acute biphenotypic leukaemias. Biphenotypic (bye-fee-no-tip-ik) means both types and is extremely rare.

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Updated: 10 February 2014