PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES - To present information about recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved indications regarding drug therapy for acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and about the nursing care of patients receiving these therapies and to review the significance of the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays in the management of patients with these leukemias.
DATA SOURCES - Published articles, book chapters, and production information.
DATA SYNTHESIS - Two agents with newly approved FDA indications are changing the focus of leukemia treatment from the cytotoxicity of specific drugs to the reversal of arrested maturation of myeloid cells. All-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) induces remission in patients with relapsed or refractory APL. Interferon alfa (IFN-alpha) administered to patients with chronic-phase, Philadelphia-chromosome-positive CML produces improved survival rates and delays disease progression as compared to standard therapy. PCR assays are used with both of these diseases to confirm diagnosis, monitor response to these agents, and predict disease progression.
CONCLUSIONS - The care of patients with leukemia continues to change as new agents such as ATRA and are approved for treatment and new assays such as PCR become available for diagnosis and treatment monitoring.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE - The nursing care of patients with leukemia requires keeping knowledgeable about the latest information regarding the molecular biology of the disease, the mechanism of action of newly approved agents, and the clinical implications of developing tests. This knowledge allows nurses to assimilate new therapies into practice, which, in turn, enables them to help patients to understand and cope with treatment through patient education and innovative interventions for symptom management.