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Research into AML

Find out about the latest UK research and clinical trials looking into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).


Researchers are looking at treatment for people with AML.


There are many trials looking at improving chemotherapy treatment for people with AML.

They are looking into:

  • different combinations of chemotherapy
  • whether chemotherapy can prevent leukaemia from coming back
  • reducing chemotherapy side effects
  • new chemotherapy drugs
  • how chemotherapy affects quality of life

Mini transplants

The mini transplant (or reduced intensity conditioning transplant) gives lower doses of chemotherapy than usual transplants. It makes use of the graft versus leukaemia effect. The chemotherapy doses you have are too low to destroy your own bone marrow. You have just enough chemotherapy to damp down your bone marrow until the transplanted donor cells have settled into it and started to produce blood cells.

The aim is that you develop a mild graft versus host disease (GvHD) reaction so the donor cells can attack and kill the leukaemic cells.

Trials for AML are looking into:

  • how well mini transplants work
  • different chemotherapy drug combinations before transplants

Half matched stem cell transplants

Doctors can't find a match for about 1 in 3 people who need a transplant. The UK Haplo study is looking at using a half matched transplant in this situation. In a half matched transplant, the donor is at least a 50% match with the person having the stem cell transplant.

Researchers want to find out:

  • how well a new drug works with a half matched stem cell transplant
  • how safe it is
  • about side effects
  • how it affects quality of life

Cord blood stem cell transplants

Trials are using blood stem cells collected from the umbilical cords of newborn babies. They are looking into whether they can these stem cells with different doses of chemotherapy and what the side effects are.

AML treatment in older people

Treatment for AML varies with age. You have to be very fit to get through some of the intensive treatments, so doctors don’t generally use them for older people. The older you are, the less likely you are to be fit enough. The good news is that as we get better at managing the effects, intensive treatments are being used more for older people.

AML trials are looking into:
  • finding better treatment combinations for older people
  • whether intensive treatment or non intensive treatment works better
  • different chemotherapy drugs
  • whether biological therapies can help alongside chemotherapy
  • whether new treatments are safe for older people

Biological therapies

Biological therapies are drugs that change the way that cells work and help the body control the growth of cancer. Some biological therapies seek out and destroy cancer cells. Others help the immune system to attack the cancer.

Biological therapies being studied in acute leukaemia include:
  • monoclonal antibodies
  • tyrosine kinase inhibitors
  • drugs that block cell growth
  • immunotherapy
  • everolimus
  • vaccines

People with AML are involved in different trials looking at these types of biological therapy.

And researchers are looking into:
  • using biological therapies alongside chemotherapy
  • comparing biological therapies with chemotherapy to see which works best
  • whether certain drugs work best for young people, children or older people
  • different treatment options for people who can't have intensive treatment
  • a new vaccine to boost the immune system and kill off leukaemia cells
  • ways to stop leukaemia from coming back

Diagnosing fungal infections

Aspergillosis is a chest infection caused by the aspergillus fungus. Chemotherapy and stem cell transplants weaken your immune system, which means you have a higher risk of getting aspergillosis. 

At the moment, the only way to find out if you have this infection is to have a test called a bronchoscopy. This involves putting a tube down your windpipe and into your lungs to take samples. You have a local anaesthetic or a drug to make you drowsy before the bronchoscopy. But it can still be uncomfortable.

Researchers are looking into new ways of diagnosing aspergillosis. These are:

  • a breath test
  • a blood test
Last reviewed: 
29 Jun 2016
  • Acute Myeloblastic Leukaemia in Adult Patients: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines
    M Fey and C Buske, 2013
    Annuals of oncology. Volume 24, Issue 6

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