First-line imatinib vs second- and third-generation TKIs for chronic-phase CML: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Blood Adv. 2020 Jun 23;4(12):2723-2735. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2019001329.


Imatinib, the first tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), improves overall survival (OS), but the introduction of newer TKIs requires the definition of the optimal first-line TKI for newly diagnosed Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) chronic-phase (CP) CML. This systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) compares the efficacy and safety of imatinib vs second-generation (dasatinib, nilotinib, bosutinib) and third-generation TKIs (ponatinib) in adults with newly diagnosed Ph+ CP CML, concentrating on OS, progression-free survival (PFS), and hematological and nonhematological adverse events. The quality of the evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) method. Seven RCTs published between 1990 and 2019 (involving 3262 participants) satisfied the eligibility criteria. Two RCTs (imatinib vs nilotinib and imatinib vs dasatinib) found no difference in 5-year OS or PFS. Second- and third-generation TKIs improved 3-month major molecular responses (relative risk [RR], 4.28; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.20-8.32) and other efficacy outcomes, decreased accelerated/blastic-phase transformations (RR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.26-0.74), but were associated with more cases of thrombocytopenia (RR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.20-2.05), cardiovascular events (RR, 2.54; 95% CI, 1.49-4.33), and pancreatic (RR, 2.29; 95% CI, 1.32-3.96) and hepatic effects (RR, 3.51; 95% CI 1.55-7.92). GRADE showed that the certainty of the evidence ranged from high to moderate. This study shows that, in comparison with imatinib, second- and third-generation TKIs improve clinical responses, but the safer toxicity profile of imatinib may make it a better option for patients with comorbidities.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Dasatinib / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate / adverse effects
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive* / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Chronic-Phase* / drug therapy


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Dasatinib