Imatinib Mesylate (Glivec or Gleevec)

Imatinib Mesylate (Glivec or Gleevec)

This patient-friendly article is about chemotherapy drug, Imatinib Mesylate (Glivec or Gleevec) which is taken in tablet form and used with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). It inhibits the over-expression of certain proteins associated with cancers (like tyrosine kinase). An article in Nature (July 23, 2006) warns that this increasingly popular drug may damage the heart, by damaging heart muscle cells. The study was developed following reports that ten leukaemia patients given Gleevec subsequently developed severe congestive heart failure. Gleevec was originally developed under the name Glivec to treat brain tumours but failed to show effectiveness. It has subsequently been licensed for other cancers such as CML and gastro-intestinal cancers and undergone a name change.  It is effective in people with the Philadelphia chromosome, and can also be used with GIST (Gastro-intestinal stromal tumours). 

Side effects can include: nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, headaches, leg cramping, fluid retention, eye problems, skin rashes, lowered resistance to infection, tiredness, and anaemia.  Generally side effects with this drug are mild. 

String Leukaemia drug outperforms Gleevec

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Patients using the second-line drug dasatanib (also known as Sprycel) as the first line of defense against chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) experience more positive results compared to patients who use the current approved initial therapy. A multinational Phase III study proved that dasatanib produced faster, better responses in 11% more of CML patients than the current first-line drug imatinib also known as Gleevec. (New England Journal of Medicine, June 17)

CML is caused by the abnormal Philadelphia chromosome, which produces the aberrant protein Bcr-Abl. This protein creates an overproduction of a type of white blood cell that feeds the cancer.

Dasatinib inhibits the action of the Bcr-Abl protein. It is currently given to patients who either cannot tolerate imatinib or whose CML resists imatinib.

The drug imatinib, is currently the first line of therapy for CML patients. It has increased the five-year survival rate for the disease from 50% to 90%.

However, after one year, only 30% to 40% of patients using imatinib achieve a state of complete cytogenetic response (CCyR), or the absence of the Philadelphia chromosome that causes the disease.

According to MD Anderson, patients who achieve CCyR within a year of treatment have a more favorable long-term survival rate.

The Phase III study involved 519 newly diagnosed CML patients who had received no prior treatment for the disease. Participants were randomly split into two groups: 259 patients received 100 milligrams of dasatinib once daily and 260 patients received 400 milligrams of imatinib once daily.

After a minimum one-year follow-up, rates of confirmed CCyR were:

77% for those taking dasatinib 

66% for those taking imatinib

Go to: 10 ways to improve your chemotherapy success and reduce side-effects

Other articles that you may find interesting are:

  1. A diet for Chemotherapy
  2. Immunotherapy overview
  3. A to Z Guide to Complementary Therapies

Go to: Return to the CANCERactive drug list


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