Cancer Home > What Is Imatinib Used For?

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Another type of leukemia is called acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). It is also sometimes called acute lymphocytic leukemia.
ALL is a rapidly progressing disease in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). The lymphocytes are not able to fight infection very well, and crowd out the healthy blood cells. This may cause infection, anemia, and easy bleeding. Acute lymphocytic leukemia can also spread to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
ALL is the most common type of leukemia in young children, but it can also affect adults. The Ph chromosome is also found in people with ALL.
When Is Imatinib Used for Leukemia?
Imatinib is approved to treat newly diagnosed adults and children with Philadelphia-positive chronic myeloid leukemia and adults who have tried and failed another treatment known as interferon-alpha. This drug is also approved to treat adults with Philadelphia-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia that came back after being in remission or was not successfully treated with other medications. Additionally, imatinib is approved to treat children with newly diagnosed Philadelphia-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in combination with chemotherapy. 

Imatinib Uses for Other Blood and Bone Marrow Cancers

In addition to leukemia, imatinib is approved to treat related cancers of the blood and bone marrow. These include:
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and myeloproliferative disease (MPD)
  • Hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) or chronic eosinophilic leukemia
  • Aggressive systemic mastocytosis (ASM).
Myelodysplastic Syndrome and Myeloproliferative Disease
MDS is a group of diseases in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells. Instead, immature blood cells in the bone marrow that do not function normally die before they are released into the blood or soon after they enter the blood. This leaves less room for healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets to develop in the bone marrow, which may lead to infection, anemia, or easy bleeding.
MPD is a group of diseases in which the bone marrow produces too many white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. Myelodysplastic syndrome and myeloproliferative diseases can overlap (MDS/MPD) so that a person has an increase in the production of immature blood cells and a decrease in mature, normally functioning blood cells.
MDS/MPD are related to myeloid leukemia. People with MDS/MPD do not have the abnormal chromosome known as the Philadelphia chromosome that is common in CML. However, they may have other abnormal chromosomes, including a rearrangement of a gene called the platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) gene. Imatinib is approved to treat MDS/MPD associated with PDGFR gene rearrangements.
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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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