Sachin Sarcoma Society


Imatinib is a targeted therapy and is classified as a signal transduction inhibitor – protein-tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

What imatinib is used for (in sarcomas)

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors/ Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans

Note:  If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.

How imatinib is given:

  • Imatinib is a pill, taken by mouth, once or twice daily.
  • Imatinib should be taken with a large glass of water, after a meal.
  • The amount of imatinib that you will receive depends on many factors, including your general health or other health problems, and the type of cancer or condition being treated.  Your doctor will determine your dose and schedule.

Side effects of imatinib:

Important things to remember about the side effects of imatinib:

  • Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
  • Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration. 
  • Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
  • There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
  • The side effects of imatinib and their severity depend on how much of the drug is given.  In other words, high doses may produce more severe side effects.

The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) among patients taking imatinib:

  • Low blood counts (white and red blood cells and platelets may temporarily decrease).  This can put the patient at increased risk for infection, anemia, and/or bleeding.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Edema (swelling of the face, feet, and hands)
  • Muscle cramps and bone pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhage
  • Skin rash
  • Fever

The following side effects are less common (occurring in about 10-29%) among patients receiving imatinib:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Poor appetite
  • Constipation
  • Night sweats
  • Nose bleeds
  • Weakness
  • Your fertility, meaning your ability to conceive or father a child, may be affected by imatinib.  Please discuss this issue with your healthcare provider.

A rare, but potentially serious side effect of imatinib is liver toxicity.  There may be elevations in transaminase, bilirubin, and lactate dehydrogenase.

Not all side effects are listed above. Some that are rare (occurring in less than 10% of patients) are not listed here.  However, you should always inform your healthcare provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.

Always inform your healthcare provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.