When Evan Handler was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in 1985, it was considered an incurable disease. That was pretty devastating news to the then 24-year old actor who was a rising star. Since then, Handler has accumulated an extensive resume of TV roles, including his current role on Californication. You also know him as Charlotte's lovable husband Harry in Sex in the City.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a form of leukemia in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. The excess cells make it difficult for the body to fight infection and crowds out healthy blood cells. AML is rare. There are only about 4,000 new cases each year, although it's the most common leukemia in children.

It's easy to overlook the symptoms of AML as something less serious. Patients may have a fever, feel tired, bruise or bleed easily, are often short of breath, lose weight or their appetite, and experience unexplained pain. Older white males, people with certain genetic disorders, and those who've been previously treated with radiation or chemotherapy are at increased risk for AML. This cancer grows quickly and must be treated immediately.

Most cancers are rated by stage based on how advanced they are at diagnosis. However, physicians just categorize AML as untreated or in remission. The first phase of treatment is to induce remission by killing the leukemia cells. AML can spread to the brain and spinal cord and patients receive additional treatment to kill leukemia cells that might lurk there. In the second phase, most patients continue treatment (called remission continuation therapy) to kill any remaining leukemia cells that are not active, but could regrow and cause a relapse.

Patients may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and often a stem cell transplant. Stem cells are immature blood cells that form in the bone marrow. Sometimes patients can have their own stem cells removed and frozen for later transplant, while others receive a transplant from a donor. After chemotherapy kills the cancer cells, the stem cells are infused back into the patient to grow into healthy blood cells.

Like many AML patients, Handler eventually had a bone marrow transplant, which put his cancer in remission.

He spent almost five years in treatment and has documented his well-publicized medical trials and tribulations, and eventual recovery, in a book, Time on Fire: My Comedy of Terror. Today he's an advocate for healthcare reform and an honorary spokesperson for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Totally Baldacious Campaign.


National Cancer Institute. "General Information About Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia." Web. 10 September 2009. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adultALL/patient

National Cancer Institute. "What you need to know about leukemia." Web. 25 November 2008.


National Marrow Donor Program. "Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)." Web.


National Institutes of Health. National Library of Medicine. "Bone marrow transplant." Web. 2 March 2010.