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Leukemia therapy with imatinib during pregnancy may cause infant abnormalities
Date:3/5/2008

(WASHINGTON, March 5, 2008) While doctors already face many challenges in treating patients with cancer, treating pregnant women with the disease, in particular, can be quite difficult as studies suggest that certain therapies can harm developing fetuses. According to the results of a study prepublished today online in Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology, expectant women treated with imatinib, a commonly used therapy for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), may be at moderate risk of developing fetal abnormalities.

Imatinib was introduced for the treatment of CML in 1998 and has become a primary therapy for most patients, turning the previously fatal disease into a mostly chronic condition in the last decade. The drug's label warns that women of child-bearing age should avoid pregnancy while taking the drug based on earlier studies that suggested it may penetrate the placenta and cause damage to developing cells.

The retrospective study reviewed records of 180 cases of CML treatment during pregnancy reported to Novartis, the Hammersmith Hospital in London, or The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to determine the real risks of imatinib therapy. Specific outcomes data were available for 125 of the cases, as 55 cases had incomplete pregnancy-related data.

Half of the pregnancies resulted in the birth of normal live infants (n=63). Thirty-five women underwent elective terminations, three following the identification of fetal abnormalities. At least 18 pregnancies resulted in miscarriage. The remainder of the births resulted in infants with congenital abnormalities (n=9, one still birth). In total, 12 pregnancies resulted in infants with fetal abnormalities (9.6 percent) and of those, there were eight live births, one still birth and three terminations (mentioned above). Some of the abnormalities in the infants were similar, including exomphalos (umbilical hernia), renal agenesis (und
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Contact: Becka Livesay
rlivesay@hematology.org
202-776-0544
American Society of Hematology
Source:Eurekalert

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