Background: Imatinib mesylate is an inhibitor of a few tyrosine kinases including KIT, which is an important growth factor receptor of mast cells.
Aim: To study the efficacy and safety of imatinib in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Method: Three patients with severe rheumatoid were treated with imatinib for 12 weeks. The number of tender and swollen joints, patient-assessed disease activity and pain as assessed by a visual analogue scale, a health assessment questionnaire (HAQ) score, serum C-reactive protein (CRP) and blood erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) were used as the primary outcome measures.
Results: All outcome measures improved. The swollen joint count decreased in all patients, and the tender joint count in two of the three patients. The patients reported less pain and disease activity, and the HAQ scores improved. Serum CRP and blood ESR improved in two patients. One patient interrupted therapy due to a rash.
Conclusions: Imatinib mesylate may have considerable anti-rheumatic efficacy. The mechanism of action is not known, but one possible target for the action of imatinib is inhibition of the KIT receptor on mast cells.