Background: The multikinase inhibitor dasatinib exerts growth-inhibitory effects in patients with imatinib-resistant chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). In first clinical trials, side effects of dasatinib, 140 mg daily, were reported to be mild and tolerable.
Patients and methods: We examined the side effect profile in 16 patients with imatinib-resistant CML who received 140 mg dasatinib daily in our center.
Results: Dasatinib produced substantial and sometimes severe or even life-threatening side effects with > or = 10% body weight loss (6/16 patients), pleural effusions grade II or higher (12/16) and infectious complications (12/16), including atypical infections not seen in imatinib-treated patients. One patient developed Epstein-Barr-Virus-positive mucosal leucoplakia, one died from pneumonia caused by pneumocystis carinii and three patients developed a skin-cancer. Most events were recorded within the first 2 years of therapy, only skin tumours developed after the second year. In ex vivo experiments performed in dasatinib-treated patients, transient suppression of IgE-dependent activation of blood basophils and TcR-dependent activation of T-lymphocytes was found. Moreover, in drug-binding studies, dasatinib was found to bind to several key kinase-targets of the immune system including Lyn and Btk, in mast cell, basophil, B-cell and T-cell lines.
Conclusion: Dasatinib acts not only anti-neoplastic in CML but may also act as an immunosuppressive agent when applied at 140 mg daily, and produces frequent pleural effusions and weight loss in advanced CML.