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What Is Dasatinib Used For?

A healthcare provider may prescribe dasatinib to help slow the growth of cancer cells in people with certain types of leukemia. Specifically, dasatinib is used for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in adults age 18 and older. There are also some possible "off-label," or unapproved, uses for this drug, such as treating cancer of the digestive tract and prostate cancer.

An Overview of Dasatinib Uses

Dasatinib (Sprycel®) is a prescription chemotherapy medication approved to treat certain types of leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Leukemia occurs when the bone marrow (the tissue in the middle of bones that makes blood cells) produces a large amount of abnormal blood cells. These abnormal blood cells grow out of control and eventually crowd out normal, healthy blood cells.
There are several different types of leukemia. The types are generally named for how quickly the disease progresses (chronic versus acute), and which blood cells are affected (lymphoid versus myeloid). Treatment will vary, mainly depending on the type of leukemia a person has. Dasatinib is used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

Chronic myeloid leukemia (sometimes called chronic myelogenous leukemia) is a slowly progressing leukemia in which bone marrow stem cells (the early cells that form blood cells) develop into many abnormal granulocytes (a type of white blood cell). Some of these cells never become mature white blood cells. These are called blasts. Over time, the granulocytes and blasts crowd out the red blood cells and platelets in the bone marrow.
CML generally progresses through three phases, or stages. These three stages include:
  • Chronic phase
  • Accelerated phase
  • Blast phase.
Most people are diagnosed in the chronic phase. In this phase, symptoms are usually mild or not present. As the number of leukemia cells increases, the disease moves into the accelerated phase, and eventually the blast phase. In the blast phase, CML acts much like acute leukemia, and symptoms may be quite significant.
The majority of people with CML have an abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome (Ph chromosome). Dasatinib is approved for people who are newly diagnosed with Ph chromosome-positive CML in the chronic phase. It is also approved for people who have Ph chromosome-positive CML in any phase, when other treatments did not work or could not be used.
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