Imatinib mesylate (Gleevec), a drug used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), can kill heart cells, according to a paper in the August 2006 issue of Nature Medicine.
Imatinib acts by inhibiting the activity of the protein Bcr-Abl, the causal agent in CML. Thomas Force and his colleagues report on ten people who developed severe congestive heart failure while on imatinib and show that mice treated with the drug develop heart pathology. Microscopic and biochemical analyses of human and mice hearts treated with imatinib suggest that the drug is toxic to cardiac cells. This effect seemed to depend on the action of imatinib over Bcr-Abl and not on other targets.
So, a toxic effect on the heart is an unanticipated side effect of imatinib. The authors suggest that patients who are on imatinib should be followed closely for symptoms of cardiac dysfunction.
Thomas Force (Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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