Purpose of review: Many improvements in chemotherapy and supportive care, as well as greater understanding of immunology and procuring graft sources, have led to more acute myeloid leukemia patients proceeding to hematopoietic cell transplantation, now the most common indication for this procedure.
Recent findings: As treatment-related mortality rates have been reduced, more practitioners and patients are amenable to use of this modality if the risk : benefit ratio appears justified. Clinical factors initially were used to identify patients at highest risk for relapse using conventional approaches, a strategy supplanted by one based on the genetic alterations of the leukemia cells. More recently, molecular factors are used to identify such candidates; the issue of which first remission acute myeloid leukemia patients receive hematopoietic cell transplantation is referred to as risk stratification.
Summary: With significant improvements in donor : recipient matching and a more varied graft source, greater numbers of patients can proceed to alternative donor hematopoietic cell transplantation. Advancing age appears to be less of a barrier and outcomes are reasonable in patients with good performance status and few comorbidities. The most interesting aspect of the moving target of which patients to take to hematopoietic cell transplantation is to define those with favorable-risk disease and avoid the procedure, while using the armamentarium at hand to identify those at higher and highest risk for relapse as the group most likely to benefit. The field, however, still awaits the data that demonstrate improved outcome in these poor-risk patients using the hematopoietic cell transplantation approach.