Treatment of refractory undifferentiated acute myelogenous leukemia with all-trans-retinoic acid.

A patient is described with undifferentiated acute myeloblastic leukemia refractory to two courses of daunorubicin and cytosine arabinoside. Because some the myeloblasts developed morphologic features of promyelocytes, the patient was treated with all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) in an attempt to promote maturation. Cytogenetic studies and sensitive molecular analysis did not reveal any abnormality classically associated with acute promyelocytic leukemia. Serial bone marrow biopsies demonstrated myeloid maturation, and the patient uneventfully went into a sustained complete remission. A review of the literature confirms this to be an apparently hitherto undescribed response to ATRA that may have therapeutic implications in similar patients.

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