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Pharmacol Rev. 2003 Sep;55(3):401-23. Epub 2003 Jul 17.

Specific targeted therapy of chronic myelogenous leukemia with imatinib.

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  • 1BMT/Leukemia Center, Oregon Health and Science University, Mailcode L592, 3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA.


Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is characterized by the Philadelphia translocation that fuses BCR sequences from chromosome 22 upstream of the ABL gene on chromosome 9. The chimerical Bcr-Abl protein expressed by CML cells has constitutive tyrosine kinase activity, which is essential for the pathogenesis of the disease. Imatinib, an ATP-competitive selective inhibitor of Bcr-Abl, has unprecedented efficacy for the treatment of CML. Most patients with early stage disease achieve durable complete hematological and complete cytogenetic remissions, with minimal toxicity. In contrast, responses are less stable in patients with advanced CML. This review highlights the pathogenesis of CML, its clinical features, and the development of imatinib as a specific molecularly targeted therapy. Aspects of disease monitoring and side effects are covered as well as resistance to imatinib and strategies to overcome resistance, such as alternative signal transduction inhibitors and drug combinations. Perspectives for further development are also discussed.

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