What is acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL)?

Acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL) is a type of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). It affects about 6 in 100 (6%) adults with AML.

The tests and treatments used for APL are the same as AML. However, treatment for APL may also include the following drugs.

ATRA (All Trans-Retinoic Acid)

ATRA is also known as tretinoin (Vesanoid®). This drug makes the leukaemia cells develop fully. This can reduce leukaemia symptoms very quickly.

You take ATRA every day as capsules with food. It is usually given with chemotherapy or the drug arsenic trioxide.

Side effects can include:

  • headaches
  • dry skin and mouth
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • bone pain
  • dry eyes.

Arsenic trioxide (ATO, Trisenox®)

This drug damages the leukaemia cells. It is given into a vein through a drip.

Side effects can include:

  • heart changes
  • diarrhoea
  • tiredness
  • muscle and bone pain
  • a high temperature
  • raised blood sugar.

How we can help

Clinical Information Nurse Specialists
Our Cancer Information Nurse Specialists are dedicated cancer nurses available to talk to on our Macmillan Cancer Support Line. 
0808 808 00 00
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.