Purpose of review: Maintenance therapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has been studied for decades with mixed results. However, the application of modern agents has renewed interest and the recent data from randomized trials has provided evidence for the use of maintenance therapy in certain populations of AML patients.
Recent findings: Unselected patients are unlikely to benefit from maintenance therapy as has been previously and consistently demonstrated. The increasing availability of newer and targeted agents like oral hypomethylating agents, protein modifiers, as well as FLT3, IDH1/2 BCL-2 and immune checkpoint inhibitors have restoked interest in maintenance therapy for which randomized, placebo-controlled trials have recently demonstrated benefits, including in the post-transplant setting. Patients with high-risk disease, suboptimal consolidation or remission associated with measurable residual disease (MRD) appear to be beneficiaries of this strategy. The influence of MRD status and the platform by which it is measured are important factors in the current understanding of when maintenance therapy works and how future studies should be designed.
Summary: The recent positive findings in support of maintenance therapy for certain AML patient populations are practice changing and bolster the need for properly designed, randomized studies using unified and standardized MRD techniques.
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