The development of Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase inhibitors has dramatically changed the prognosis of patients with newly diagnosed chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Standard-dose imatinib (400 mg/day in chronic phase, 600 mg/day in advanced CML) now dominates the management of this disease, producing considerably higher hematologic, cytogenetic, and molecular response rates than seen with previous drug therapies. However, although many patients respond well to standard-dose imatinib initially, some patients do not achieve adequate levels of response or discontinue therapy because of resistance. One approach to improving treatment response with first-line imatinib may be to increase the imatinib dose (800 mg/day), although recent trial data indicate that overall increases in response rates may be modest. Newer Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase inhibitors can induce responses in patients with all phases of imatinib-resistant CML, even those with imatinib-resistant mutations in the BCR-ABL gene. Furthermore, in initial studies, first-line dasatinib or nilotinib treatment has produced response rates that compare favorably with historical controls treated with imatinib, although confirmation is required from head-to-head clinical trials. Future clinical approaches may include drug combinations, which may allow quiescent leukemia stem cells to be eradicated. Further improvements in drug treatment for first-line CML are expected during the next few years.
ASJC Scopus subject areas