Detection of resistance to imatinib by metabolic profiling: clinical and drug development implications

Am J Pharmacogenomics. 2005;5(5):293-302. doi: 10.2165/00129785-200505050-00002.


Acquired resistance to imatinib mesylate is an increasing and continued challenge in the treatment of BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase positive leukemias as well as gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Stable isotope-based dynamic metabolic profiling (SIDMAP) studies conducted in parallel with the development and clinical testing of imatinib revealed that this targeted drug is most effective in controlling glucose transport, direct glucose oxidation for RNA ribose synthesis in the pentose cycle, as well as de novo long-chain fatty acid synthesis. Thus imatinib deprives transformed cells of the key substrate of macromolecule synthesis, malignant cell proliferation, and growth. Tracer-based magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies revealed a restitution of mitochondrial glucose metabolism and an increased energy state by reversing the Warburg effect, consistent with a subsequent decrease in anaerobic glycolysis. Recent in vitro SIDMAP studies that involved myeloid cells isolated from patients who developed resistance against imatinib indicated that non-oxidative ribose synthesis from glucose and decreased mitochondrial glucose oxidation are reliable metabolic signatures of drug resistance and disease progression. There is also evidence that imatinib-resistant cells utilize alternate substrates for macromolecule synthesis to overcome limited glucose transport controlled by imatinib. The main clinical implications involve early detection of imatinib resistance and the identification of new metabolic enzyme targets with the potential of overcoming drug resistance downstream of the various genetic and BCR-ABL-expression derived mechanisms. Metabolic profiling is an essential tool used to predict, clinically detect, and treat targeted drug resistance. This need arises from the fact that targeted drugs are narrowly conceived against genes and proteins but the metabolic network is inherently complex and flexible to activate alternative macromolecule synthesis pathways that targeted drugs fail to control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzamides
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / enzymology
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology*
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzamides
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl