Case Presentation – Hematology 1


A 35-year-old female presented to the emergency department with symptoms of fatigue, easy bruising, and unexplained bleeding from the gums over the past two weeks. She also reported episodes of shortness of breath and frequent nosebleeds.


On physical examination, the patient appeared pale and had multiple petechiae and ecchymoses on her skin. There were signs of mucosal bleeding in the oral cavity, and she had an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) on abdominal palpation.

Diagnostic Workup
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): Showed pancytopenia with leukocytosis, anemia, and thrombocytopenia.
  • Peripheral Blood Smear: Revealed abnormal promyelocytes with Auer rods.
  • Coagulation Profile:
    • Prolonged Prothrombin Time (PT) and Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time (aPTT)
    • Elevated D-dimer levels
    • Low fibrinogen levels
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy: Confirmed the presence of hypercellular marrow with numerous promyelocytes.
  • Cytogenetic Analysis: Demonstrated the t(15;17) translocation.

Based on the clinical presentation, peripheral blood smear, bone marrow biopsy, and cytogenetic findings, the diagnosis of AML M3 complicated by DIC was established.

  • Immediate Intervention:
  • Administration of All-Trans Retinoic Acid (ATRA) to induce differentiation of promyelocytes.
  • Initiation of supportive care, including transfusion of platelets and fresh frozen plasma (FFP) to manage DIC.
  • Definitive Treatment:
  • ATRA combined with arsenic trioxide (ATO) or chemotherapy.
  • Continuous monitoring and supportive management for DIC.

Introduction to AML M3

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) M3, also known as Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL), is a distinct subtype of AML characterized by the proliferation of promyelocytes, which are immature granulocytes. This subtype is particularly important due to its unique clinical presentation and response to therapy.

What is AML M3?

AML M3 is a hematologic malignancy defined by the abnormal accumulation of promyelocytes. It accounts for approximately 10-15% of AML cases and is associated with a specific chromosomal translocation, t(15;17)(q24;q21), leading to the formation of the PML-RARA fusion gene.

Key Characteristics
  • Cytogenetics: The hallmark of AML M3 is the t(15;17) translocation.
  • Morphology: Presence of abnormal promyelocytes with heavy granulation and multiple Auer rods.
  • Molecular Biology: The PML-RARA fusion gene resulting from the translocation plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis by disrupting normal differentiation of promyelocytes.


The PML-RARA fusion protein interferes with the normal function of the retinoic acid receptor (RAR), leading to a block in the differentiation of myeloid cells at the promyelocyte stage. This results in an accumulation of these immature cells in the bone marrow and blood, contributing to the clinical manifestations of the disease.

Treatment Strategies for AML M3

Induction Therapy

The primary goal is to achieve remission by eradicating leukemic cells.

  • ATRA: Promotes differentiation of promyelocytes and reduces coagulopathy.
  • Arsenic Trioxide (ATO): Induces apoptosis of leukemic cells and synergizes with ATRA.
  • Chemotherapy: Typically includes anthracyclines (e.g., daunorubicin).

Consolidation Therapy

Aims to eliminate residual disease and prevent relapse.

  • ATRA and ATO: Continued for several cycles post-induction.
  • Chemotherapy: Additional courses with cytarabine and anthracyclines.

Maintenance Therapy

Prolonged administration of ATRA and low-dose chemotherapy may be used to maintain remission.

Prognosis and Follow-Up

AML M3 has a favorable prognosis compared to other AML subtypes, with a high rate of complete remission and long-term survival when treated appropriately.

  • Survival Rates: Approximately 80-90% of patients achieve remission with current treatments.
  • Monitoring: Regular follow-up with CBC, bone marrow examinations, and molecular studies to detect minimal residual disease.


AML M3 is a unique and treatable subtype of acute myeloid leukemia, distinguished by its genetic characteristics and responsiveness to targeted therapies like ATRA and ATO. Early recognition and management of complications such as DIC are crucial for improving patient outcomes.

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