AL amyloidosis: advances in diagnostics and treatment

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2019 Sep 1;34(9):1460-1466. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfy291.


AL amyloidosis (light chain; previously also called primary amyloidosis) is a systemic disease characterized by an amyloid deposition process affecting many organs, and which still has unsatisfactory survival of patients. The monoclonal light chains kappa (κ) or lambda (λ) or their fragments form the fibrils that deposit and accumulate in different tissues. Renal involvement is very frequent in AL amyloidosis and can lead to the development of nephrotic syndrome followed by renal failure in some cases. AL amyloidosis ultimately leads to destruction of tissues and progressive disease. With recent advances in the treatment, the importance of an early diagnosis of amyloidosis and correct assessment of its type is high. Histologic confirmation is based on Congo red detection of amyloid deposits in tissues but AL amyloidosis must also be distinguished from other systemic forms of amyloidoses with renal involvement, such as AA amyloidosis, amyloidosis with heavy chain deposition, fibrinogen Aα or ALECT2 (leukocyte chemotactic factor 2) deposition. Immunofluorescence (IF) plays a key role here. IF on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue after protease digestion, immunohistochemistry or laser microdissection with mass spectrometry should complete the diagnosis in unclear cases. Standard treatment with melphalan and prednisolone or with cyclophosphamide and dexamethasone has been replaced with newer drugs used for the treatment of multiple myeloma-bortezomib, carfilzomib and ixazomib or thalidomide, lenalidomide and pomalidomide. High-dose melphalan supported by autologous stem cell transplantation remains the therapeutic option for patients with low-risk status. These new treatment options prolong survival from months to years and improve the prognosis in a majority of patients.

Keywords: AL amyloidosis; bortezomib; free light chains; nephrotic syndrome; stem cell transplantation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Light-chain Amyloidosis / diagnosis*
  • Immunoglobulin Light-chain Amyloidosis / therapy*
  • Prognosis