Navigating the contested borders between myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia

Alexander J. Ambinder, Amy E. DeZern

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia are heterogeneous myeloid neoplasms which arise from the accumulation of mutations in a myeloid stem cell or progenitor that confer survival or growth advantages. These disease processes are formally differentiated by clinical, laboratory, and morphological presentations, especially with regard to the preponderance of blasts in the peripheral blood or bone marrow (AML); however, they are closely associated through their shared lineage as well as their existence on a spectrum with some cases of MDS displaying increased blasts, a feature that reflects more AML-like behavior, and the propensity for MDS to transform into AML. It is increasingly recognized that the distinctions between these two entities result from the divergent patterns of genetic alterations that drive each of them. Mutations in genes related to chromatin-remodeling and the spliceosome are seen in both MDS and AML arising out of antecedent MDS, while mutations in genes related to signaling pathways such as RAS or FLT3 are more typically seen in AML or otherwise are a harbinger of transformation. In this review, we focus on the insights into the biological and genetic distinctions and similarities between MDS and AML that are now used to refine clinical prognostication, guide disease management, and to inform development of novel therapeutic approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1033534
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - Oct 28 2022


  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • clonal hematopoiesis
  • hematologic malignancies
  • myelodysplastic syndromes
  • secondary AML
  • transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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