Clinical Review

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia: A Review of TKI Therapy

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Dasatinib is a second-generation TKI that has regulatory approval for treatment of adult patients with newly diagnosed CP-CML or CP-CML in patients with resistance or intolerance to prior TKIs. In addition to dasatinib's ability to inhibit ABL kinases, it is also known to be a potent inhibitor of Src family kinases. Dasatinib has shown efficacy in patients who have developed imatinib-resistant ABL kinase domain mutations.

Dasatinib was initially approved as second-line therapy in patients with resistance or intolerance to imatinib. This indication was based on the results of the phase 3 CA180-034 trial which ultimately identified dasatinib 100 mg daily as the optimal dose. In this trial, 74% of patients enrolled had resistance to imatinib and the remainder were intolerant. The 7-year follow-up of patients randomized to dasatinib 100 mg (n = 167) daily indicated that 46% achieved MMR while on study. Of the 124 imatinib-resistant patients on dasatinib 100 mg daily, the 7-year progression-free survival (PFS) was 39% and OS was 63%. In the 43 imatinib-intolerant patients, the 7-year PFS was 51% and OS was 70%.8

Dasatinib 100 mg daily was compared to imatinib 400 mg daily in newly diagnosed CP-CML patients in the randomized phase 3 DASISION trial. More patients on the dasatinib arm achieved an early molecular response of BCR-ABL1 transcripts ≤10% IS after 3 months on treatment compared to imatinib (84% versus 64%). Furthermore, the 5-year follow-up reports that the cumulative incidence of MMR and MR4.5 in dasatinib-treated patients was 76% and 42%, and was 64% and 33%, with imatinib (P = 0.0022 and P = 0.0251, respectively). Fewer patients treated with dasatinib progressed to AP or BP (4.6%) compared to imatinib (7.3%), but the estimated 5-year OS was similar between the 2 arms (91% for dasatinib versus 90% for imatinib).9 Regulatory approval for dasatinib as first-line therapy in newly diagnosed CML patients was based on results of the DASISION trial.


Most dasatinib-related toxicities are reported as grade 1 or grade 2, but grade 3/4 hematologic adverse events are fairly common. In the DASISION trial, grade 3/4 neutropenia, anemia, and thrombocytopenia occurred in 29%, 13%, and 22% of dasatinib-treated patients, respectively. Cytopenias can generally be managed with temporary dose interruptions or dose reductions.

During the 5-year follow-up of the DASISION trial, pleural effusions were reported in 28% of patients, most of which were grade 1/2. This occurred at a rate of approximately ≤ 8% per year, suggesting a stable incidence over time, and the effusions appear to be dose-dependent.9 Depending on the severity of the effusion, this may be treated with diuretics, dose interruption, and in some instances, steroids or a thoracentesis. Typically, dasatinib can be restarted at 1 dose level lower than the previous dose once the effusion has resolved.7 Other, less common side effects of dasatinib include pulmonary hypertension (5% of patients), as well as abdominal pain, fluid retention, headaches, fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, rash, nausea, and diarrhea. Pulmonary hypertension is typically reversible after cessation of dasatinib, and thus dasatinib should be permanently discontinued once the diagnosis is confirmed. Fluid retention is often treated with diuretics and supportive care. Nausea and diarrhea are generally manageable and occur less frequently when dasatinib is taken with food and a large glass of water. Antiemetics and antidiarrheals can be used as needed. Troublesome rash can be best managed with topical or systemic steroids as well as possible dose reduction or dose interruption.7,9 In the DASISION trial, adverse events led to therapy discontinuation more often in the dasatinib group than in the imatinib group (16% versus 7%).9 Bleeding, particularly in the setting of thrombocytopenia, has been reported in patients being treated with dasatinib as a result of the drug-induced reversible inhibition of platelet aggregation.10

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