Light chain (AL) amyloidosis is the most frequently diagnosed form of systemic amyloid in the western world. The historically poor prognosis of AL amyloidosis appears to be improving with currently reported median survival of c. 40 months compared to 13 months in the early 1990s when low-dose oral melphalan was the mainstay of treatment. Autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) achieves the highest rates of complete clonal response but is confounded by substantial treatment-related mortality in AL amyloidosis unless it is restricted to highly selected patients. Newer chemotherapy regimens appear to have a balance of better safety and respectable efficacy with overall outcomes nearly similar to ASCT, but which may be used more widely. There are few data comparing durability, depth of clonal response, rate of organ response and overall survival following ASCT or chemotherapy, but a recent small, randomized trial did not suggest superiority of ASCT to oral melphalan and dexamethasone. There is a compelling need for further and larger randomized trials in this context. At the same time, various new specific anti-amyloid drugs have shown (in early phase studies or animal models) some very promising results. This review attempts to highlight the challenges, controversies and progress in AL amyloidosis.
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