Secondary acute myeloid leukemias (AML) evolving from an antecedent myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) are characterized by a unique set of cytogenetic and molecular features distinct from de novo AML. Given the high frequency of poor-risk cytogenetic and molecular features, malignant clones are frequently insensitive to traditional AML chemotherapeutic agents. Allogeneic stem cell transplant, the only treatment modality shown to have any beneficial long-term outcome, is often not possible given the advanced age of patients at time of diagnosis and frequent presence of competing co-morbidities. Even in this setting, relapse rates remain high. As a result, outcomes are generally poor and there remains a significant unmet need for novel therapeutic strategies. While advances in cancer genomics have dramatically enhanced our understanding of the molecular events governing clonal evolution in MPNs, the cell-intrinsic and -extrinsic mechanisms driving leukemic transformation at this level remain poorly understood. Here, we review known risk factors for the development of leukemic transformation in MPNs, recent progress made in our understanding of the molecular features associated with leukemic transformation, current treatment strategies, and emerging therapeutic options for this high-risk myeloid malignancy.

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