Therapy-related leukemia and myelodysplasia: Susceptibility and incidence

Giuseppe Leone*, Livio Pagano, Dina Ben-Yehuda, Maria Teresa Voso

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome/acute myeloid leukemia (t-MDS/AML) is an increasingly recognized treatment complication in patients treated with radiotherapy or chemotherapy for previous hematologic malignancies or solid tumors. Distinct clinical entities have been described according to the primary treatment, corresponding to defined genetic lesions. Chromosome 7 and/or 5 losses or deletions are typical of alkylating agent-induced AML, while development of t-AML with balanced translocations involving chromosome bands 11q23 and 21q22 has been related to previous therapy with drugs targeting DNA-topoisomerase II. In addition, anti-metabolites, and in particular the immunosuppressant azathioprine, have been shown to induce defective DNA-mismatch repair. This could promote survival of misrepaired cells giving rise to the leukemic clone. Individual predisposing factors, including polymorphisms in detoxification and DNA repair enzymes have been identified. Their combination may significantly increase the risk of t-MDS/AML. Among patients with hematologic malignancies, long-term survivors of Hodgkin's lymphoma are exposed to an increased risk of t-MDS/AML, particularly when receiving MOPP-based, and escalated BEACOPP regimens, and when alkylators are combined with radiotherapy. Patients with Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are at highest risk when total body irradiation followed by autologous stem cell transplantation is used as rescue or consolidation therapy. The addition of granulocyte-colony- stimulating factor and radiotherapy plays a significant role in t-AML following treatment of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In non-hematologic malignancies, treatment for breast cancer and germ-cell tumors has been associated with a 1-5% lifetime risk of both lymphoid as well as myeloid leukemia. In all cases the risk of t-MDS/AML drops sharply by 10 years after treatment.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1389-1398
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • AML
  • MDS
  • Susceptibility
  • Therapy-related


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