Benefits still outweigh potential infertility risks, experts say
WEDNESDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Although it's a much more targeted treatment than standard chemotherapy, the effective and much-touted leukemia drug, Gleevec, isn't without side effects.
In women still in their reproductive years, imatinib (Gleevec) might damage the chances of having a baby in the future, according to a case report published as a letter in the March 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Although the odds are not known, it is possible that imatinib and drugs with a similar mode of action may impair fertility," said one of the letter's authors, Dr. Constantinos Christopoulos, deputy director of the 1st department of internal medicine at Amalia Fleming General Hospital in Athens, Greece. "It is not known whether imatinib-induced infertility is reversible."
However, Christopoulos was also quick to point out that this was only a single case report of premature ovarian failure, and it can be difficult to establish the exact cause of the condition.
"Imatinib is a very effective drug that has revolutionized the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), but knowledge of the effects of its long-term administration is still limited, and close medical surveillance of patients receiving the drug is mandatory," he said.
The patient Christopoulos and his colleagues reported on was a 28-year-old female who had Philadelphia chromosome-positive CML. Each year in the United States, just under 5,000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
She was initially given 400 milligrams of Gleevec daily. About one year into her treatment, the dose of Gleevec was increased to 600 milligrams per day, because she still had some cancer cells. She didn't have any severe side effects due to the treatment, though she experienced some skin discoloration and m
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