People with certain types of cancer, namely leukemia, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, or a certain kind of gastrointestinal tumor known as GIST, can be treated with imatinib. This drug works by inhibiting the release of an enzyme that causes cancer cells to grow. The tablets are taken once or twice a day with food and water. Like most chemotherapy drugs, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue are possible.
What Is Imatinib?Imatinib mesylate (Gleevec®) is a prescription medication that contains a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are a class of chemotherapy medicines. Imatinib is approved for the treatment of certain types of cancer, including:
- Leukemia and other cancers of the blood and bone marrow
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST, a cancer of the digestive tract)
- A rare type of skin cancer known as dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans.
(Click What Is Imatinib Used For? for more information on this topic, including possible off-label uses.)
Are There Side Effects?Just like any medicine, imatinib can cause side effects. Although not everyone who uses the drug will have problems, most people will experience some adverse reactions during treatment.
If side effects do occur, in most cases, they are mild and either require no treatment or are treated easily by you or your healthcare provider. Serious reactions are less common.
Common side effects of imatinib include but are not limited to:
- Fluid retention (edema or swelling)
- Muscle cramps
(Click Imatinib Side Effects to learn more, including potentially serious side effects you should report immediately to your healthcare provider.)