The role of bone marrow transplantation in acute promyelocytic leukemia

C. Nabhan, J. Mehta, M. S. Tallman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is characterized by a specific gene rearrangement and the generation of the PML-RARα fusion transcript which results from a translocation between chromosomes 15 and 17. Targeted therapy with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) and anthracycline-based chemotherapy results in an apparent cure in 70-80% of patients. Both allogeneic (ALLO) and autologous (AUTO) hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) are effective in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but their role in APL is not clear given the excellent outcome with ATRA and chemotherapy. Several retrospective studies have analyzed the outcome of patients undergoing AUTO or ALLO-HSCT in first (CR1) or second (CR2) complete remission. Most of these studies have shown significant transplant-related mortality (TRM) with ALLO-HSCT, but a reduction in relapse rate compared with AUTO-HSCT. The high TRM with ALLO-HSCT and the excellent outcome with ATRA and chemotherapy do not justify recommending this procedure for the majority of patients in CR1. The role of AUTO-HSCT in CR1 also is unclear. A small subset of patients at high risk of relapse, possibly identifiable by a high white blood cell count at presentation may benefit from HSCT. Most patients with relapsed disease achieve CR2 with ATRA, arsenic trioxide, or combination therapy. However, it is not known if these responses are sustained or if consolidation with HSCT has a place in this setting. The outcome of AUTO-HSCT in CR2 using stem cells that are negative for PML-RARα is excellent. It is unclear whether ALLO-HSCT from an HLA-identical sibling is superior to AUTO-HSCT with PML-RARα-negative cells in CR2 since the former would be associated with graft-versus-leukemia effects and the latter with lower TRM. Alternatively, arsenic trioxide or re-treatment with ATRA, followed by intensive chemotherapy may also be effective. A randomized prospective clinical trial, or a retrospective analysis of the available data would be useful in answering this critical question.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-226
Number of pages8
JournalBone Marrow Transplantation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Acute promyelocytic leukemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation
  • Hematology


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