Acute myeloid leukemia often involves a mutation of the FLT3 gene. Although this does not affect AML symptoms, it can affect the survival rate.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer that affects the blood cells. It accounts for around 80% of adult blood cancers. The condition affects about 20,000 people per year in the United States.

This article looks at how an FLT3 mutation affects the course of AML, along with the risk factors and treatment of AML with an FLT3 mutation.

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An FLT3 mutation is the most common genetic mutation in AML. Experts estimate that around 33% of people with AML have an FLT3 mutation.

The FLT3 gene manages the production of fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3). FLT3 is a protein that manages the growth and division of various cells, including some blood cells. Mutations in this gene alter the way the FLT3 protein manages those processes.

Learn about genes and why they are important.

Having an FLT3 mutation tends to worsen the outlook for people with AML, meaning people with this AML mutation may have a reduced outlook.

This is especially true of the internal tandem duplication (ITD) FLT3 mutation (FLT3-ITD mutation). The FLT3-ITD mutation involves multiple copies of the mutated FLT3 gene existing in a row. People with this particular mutation typically have a reduced outlook.

The symptoms of AML are the same whether or not someone has the FLT3 mutation.

These symptoms include:

Age is a significant risk factor for AML with the FLT3 mutation.

The FLT3‐ITD mutation occurs in around 25% of adults with AML but in over 30% of adults with AML who are over 55 years old.

This same mutation occurs in only approximately 10% of children with AML and 5% of children with AML under 1 year of age.

Doctors typically use chemotherapy and midostaurin (Rydapt) to treat AML with an FLT3 mutation.

Chemotherapy involves taking drugs that kill cancer cells. There are many chemotherapy medications. A doctor’s chemotherapy drug recommendations will depend on the person’s needs.

Midostaurin is a targeted therapy drug. This means that it targets specific cancer-causing genetic mutations. In particular, midostaurin is an FLT3 inhibitor. It is a drug that makes it harder for FLT3 to affect cell development.

Research into drugs for treating AML is ongoing. For instance, in 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug quizartinib for treating AML with FLT3 mutations based on the results of a clinical trial involving over 500 people with the FLT3 mutation.

Diagnosing AML typically involves blood and bone marrow testing.

A doctor may also perform additional testing to determine whether a person has an FLT3 mutation by analyzing blood or bone marrow cells.

AML is a serious condition that can be life threatening. However, treatment can help increase the survival rate.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), around 60–70% of adults with AML go into complete remission with treatment.

Clinical remission is when a person no longer has any symptoms of AML, and their levels are back to a typical range. This includes there being less than 5% blasts in the bone marrow.

Additionally, 25% of adults with AML live for at least 3 more years after treatment.

AML is a form of blood cancer. FLT3 genetic mutations are common among people who have this condition. This type of mutation does not change the symptoms of the disease. However, it can reduce the survival rate for those with AML.

The FLT3 gene manages the production of the FLT3 protein. This protein instructs cells to divide and grow in various ways. When someone has an FLT3 mutation, the proteins direct blood cells to develop abnormally. This causes symptoms such as anemia, headache, and bone pain.

Treatment for FLT3 AML typically involves chemotherapy. Doctors may also recommend additional medications that specifically target the FLT3 protein.