Treatment of Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia During Pregnancy

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Management of the pregnant patient with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a challenge. Immediate treatment of APL is critical, as it is an oncologic emergency, with a high risk of morbidity and mortality associated with disseminated intravascular coagulation. However, administration of chemotherapy and differentiating agents in pregnancy is controversial because of potential teratogenic effects. In addition, complications associated with APL, including retinoic acid syndrome, add to the complexity of management. To better understand how to manage this complex patient care situation, we searched the PubMed database (January 1972-May 2008) for English-language articles about maternal and fetal outcomes resulting from APL treatment during pregnancy. A total of 42 cases from 35 articles were identified: 12 first-trimester, 21 second-trimester, and 9 third-trimester cases. The most commonly administered agents were all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), anthracyclines, and antimetabolites. Complete remission was reported in 35 (83%) of 42 patients. Administration of ATRA or chemotherapy in the first trimester was associated with an increased risk of fetal malformations and spontaneous abortion, whereas administration in the second and third trimesters was associated with relatively favorable fetal outcomes. The overall treatment of the pregnant patient with APL should include a discussion about pregnancy termination, especially if APL is diagnosed in the first trimester. If the pregnancy is to continue, then the appropriate chemotherapy regimen needs to be determined. Frequent fetal monitoring, along with aggressive management of potential APL-related complications, is necessary to allow for optimal maternal and fetal outcomes.

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