Effective treatment of the elderly patient with AML remains a challenging task. Acute myelogenous leukemia is clearly a different disease in the elderly than in the young, for many reasons, both clinical and biologic, which contribute to the worse prognosis in the elderly. The elderly, as a group, have been underrepresented in clinical trials. Several important prognostic variables have been identified and described, however, that can help the physician select the appropriate treatment for any individual patient. Age itself should not preclude an attempt at therapy, especially for AML, which progresses very rapidly in the absence of treatment. After careful analysis of prognostic factors, in any individual patient, however, the outlook may be so poor that it may be desirable to withhold treatment. With a better understanding of the pathophysiology of AML in the elderly, more targeted and less toxic treatment regimens will become available. At present, however, clinicians must use an improved understanding of the disease to predict its behavior in an individual patient, so that the currently available treatment modalities are used most prudently.
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