Imatinib (Gleevec®)

Imatinib is an oral Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) medication and the first to be approved by the FDA to target the BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase protein. It has become a standard treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Imatinib can be used to treat both Chronic and Accelerated Phase CML.

Side Effects

Common Side Effects:

These side effects are common when patients start therapy but are usually mild to moderate. Most of these side effects improve over time but it is important to tell your doctor about any side effects you may be experiencing. Supportive medications can help with symptoms from these side effects and often, the TKI doses do not need to be modified.

  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain/aches
  • Edema (fluid buildup) around the eyes, feet, or abdomen
  • Pruritus (itchy skin) and skin rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Decreased white blood cell and platelet counts

Potentially Serious Side Effects:

The TKIs used to treat CML works very effectively to reduce the CML cells in your blood. Sometimes, after starting a TKI, the blood counts become too low and the medication dose is reduced or stopped to allow your infection fighting cells and platelets to recover. Often, the medication can be restarted at the usual dose.

Drug Interactions: To varying degrees, the TKIs used for the treatment of CML can interact with certain other medications you may be taking. Be sure to tell your doctor all medications you’re taking. Also, be sure to tell you doctor about any medical problems as this may be important in deciding whether anagrelide is appropriate for you. 

Additional Information:

Richard T. Silver MD Myeloproliferative Neoplasms Center 525 East 70th St., Starr Pavillion, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10021