Targeted therapy for AML
Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific features of leukaemia cells to stop them growing and spreading.
Learn more about:
- Side effects of targeted therapy
- Other targeted therapy drugs
- Video: What are drug therapies?
Venetoclax is a type of targeted therapy drug that may be used for people with certain subtypes of AML and those who are not able to have high-dose chemotherapy.
Venetoclax blocks the action of BCL-2, a protein that helps leukaemia cells survive. It is taken as a tablet in combination with a chemotherapy drug called azacitidine. Some people may need to stay in hospital for the first 3–4 days of treatment while the dose is adjusted. Your doctor will advise you to drink plenty of water during the first few weeks of treatment. This helps to prevent tumour lysis syndrome (TLS). TLS may occur when leukaemia cells die and release a chemical called uric acid. A build-up of uric acid can damage the kidneys.
Other possible side effects include:
- increased risk of infection
- breathing problems
- fatigue (tiredness)
- nausea and/or vomiting.
Speak to your treatment team if you experience any side effects, as they can often be treated with medicines.
Other targeted therapy drugs
AML may be treated with other targeted therapy drugs such as midostaurin and gemtuzumab ozogamicin (which are both used in combination with chemotherapy). People with relapsed AML may be offered a drug called gilteritinib.
Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. This is more commonly used for ALL, but it may be used in some clinical trials for AML. Ask your doctor if there are any trials that might be suitable for you.
If you have cancer, drug therapy may play a big role in your treatment plan. Watch this short video to learn more about drug therapies, including targeted and immunotherapy.
Dr Jonathan Sillar, Haematologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital; Dr Scott Dunkley, Haematologist, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse; Sharon Frazer, Consumer; Dr Robin Gasiorowski, Staff Specialist, Haematology, Concord Hospital; Prof Angela Hong, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Heather Mackay, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Haematology, Westmead Hospital; Katelin Mayer, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Outreach Team, Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
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