Acute myeloid leukemia developing in patients with autoimmune diseases

Safaa M. Ramadan, Tamer M. Fouad, Valentina Summa, Syed K H Hasan, Francesco Lo-Coco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia is an unfortunate complication of cancer treatment, particularly for patients with highly curable primary malignancies and favorable life expectancy. The risk of developing therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia also applies to patients with non-malignant conditions, such as autoimmune diseases treated with cytotoxic and/or immunosuppressive agents. There is considerable evidence to suggest that there is an increased occurrence of hematologic malignancies in patients with autoimmune diseases compared to the general population, with a further increase in risk after exposure to cytotoxic therapies. Unfortunately, studies have failed to reveal a clear correlation between leukemia development and exposure to individual agents used for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Given the dismal outcome of secondary acute myeloid leukemia and the wide range of available agents for treatment of autoimmune diseases, an increased awareness of this risk and further investigation into the pathogenetic mechanisms of acute leukemia in autoimmune disease patients are warranted. This article will review the data available on the development of acute myeloid leukemia in patients with autoimmune diseases. Possible leukemogeneic mechanisms in these patients, as well as evidence supporting the association of their primary immunosuppressive status and their exposure to specific therapies, will also be reviewed. This review also supports the idea that it may be misleading to label leukemias that develop in patients with autoimmune diseases who are exposed to cytotoxic agents as 'therapy-related leukemias'. A better understanding of the molecular defects in autoimmune disease patients who develop acute leukemia will lead to a better understanding of the association between these two diseases entities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-817
Number of pages13
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2012


  • Autoimmune disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Secondary leukemia
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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