Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL)


You should learn all you can about APL so that you can better understand how the disease developed and what to expect during treatment and recovery. Because this type of leukemia is relatively rare, educational resources are limited, but some major cancer organizations offer detailed information on APL (below). Online information about APL is often found in resources on AML or leukemia, but it is important to remember that APL is treated very differently from other subtypes of AML.

As with all types of cancer, a clinical trial may offer an opportunity to receive a newer treatment. Clinical trials are a vital part of the cancer research process and are done to determine whether new cancer treatments are more effective than the current standard treatment. Many of today’s standard treatments for cancer are based on the results of earlier clinical trials. Individuals who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

A clinical trial is an option, and you may decide that standard treatment outside of a trial is the best choice for you. To make an informed decision about volunteering for a clinical trial, learn as much as possible about clinical trials and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of participating.

Read about clinical trials in general as well as about specific trials for your type of cancer. Some people may think that a clinical trial is not an option for them because their doctor didn’t recommend it. However, if your doctor does not ask you about clinical trials, you may raise the discussion yourself. Ask your physician and medical team about trials that may be appropriate for you.

One of the most important considerations in deciding whether to volunteer for a clinical trial is to weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Make sure you understand the details of the particular trial you’re considering; asking several questions can help you in this decision-making process (see below). Your physician can tell you about specific benefits and risks that may be associated with the particular trial that he or she recommends.

The decision to participate in a clinical trial is a personal one and is yours to make. Many individuals with APL or other types of cancer have found it helpful to talk about the decision with family members or friends. Ask your physician or a member of your medical team about clinical trial resources available online or in your local community. In addition, a number of government and private organizations provide listings of clinical trials and information about the trials on their websites.

Questions You Should Ask To Help You Decide to Volunteer for a Clinical Trial*

  • Why do the doctors who designed the trial believe that the treatment being studied may be better than the one being used now? Why may it not be better?
  • What are my other options (standard treatments, other studies)? What are their advantages and disadvantages?
  • What were the results of any previous studies of this treatment?
  • What are the possible side effects or risks of the new treatment? What are the possible benefits?
  • How will the doctor know if the treatment is working?
  • How long will I be in the trial?
  • What kinds of tests and treatments are involved?
  • How could the trial affect my daily life?
  • Will I have to travel somewhere to receive treatment? Will I be compensated for travel expenses?
  • How often will I have to come to the hospital or clinic?
  • Will I have to be hospitalized? If so, how often and for how long?
  • What type of long-term follow-up care is part of the study?
  • Will I continue to be under the care of my doctor, or will I be seeing a different one (or both)?
  • Are there others participating in the study I could speak to?
  • Will I have to pay for any of the treatments or tests?
  • What costs will my health insurance cover?
*From the Web sites of the National Cancer Institute ( and the American Cancer Society ( APLClinical Trial Searches