In a phase 2 study, 23 patients with myelofibrosis with myeloid metaplasia were treated with imatinib mesylate at a constant dose of 400 mg/d. Treatment was held in 16 patients (70%), after 1 to 12 weeks, because of side effects (neutropenia, 6 patients; musculoskeletal pain, 5 patients; thrombocytosis, 4 patients; edema, 3 patients; diarrhea and hyperbilirubinemia, 1 patient). Including patients in whom retreatment at a reduced dose was possible, 11 patients (48%) were able to continue treatment beyond 3 months. None of the patients experienced a response in anemia, and only 2 had partial responses in splenomegaly. A greater than 50% increase in platelet count was documented in 11 (48%) patients, but not in those with baseline platelet counts of less than 100 x 10(9)/L. In vitro, imatinib mesylate caused variable degrees of growth suppression of myeloid and erythroid progenitors that unfortunately did not translate into clinical benefit.