Skip to Main Content

Welcome to

Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

Learn More


Targeted Therapy

Brand names:


Other names:

Glivec, Imatinib Mesylate; STI-571 

Often used for:


clipboard icon

What is Imatinib?

Imatinib is a type of medicine called a targeted therapy. This medicine is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It acts to block certain cell signals to help keep cells from growing. Imatinib is used to treat certain Philadelphia chromosome positive leukemias including Ph+ ALL and Ph+ CML.

Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and monitor liver and kidney function.

tablet and capsule icon

May be taken as a tablet by mouth

exclamation mark in a circle icon

Possible Side Effects

  • Edema (swelling)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hair loss
  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • Dry skin, itching
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Vision changes, blurry vision
  • Back pain
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Mouth sores
  • Heartburn, gas
  • Changes in taste
  • Dizziness
  • Night sweats
  • Problems sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Infertility
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Heart problems
  • Bleeding
  • Tumor lysis syndrome
  • Delayed growth

Not all patients who take imatinib will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

family icon

Tips for Families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • The care team may recommend medicines and/or foods to help manage diarrhea. Anti-nausea medicines may also be prescribed.
  • While taking this medicine, do not eat grapefruit or Seville (bitter) oranges or drink juice or beverages containing grapefruit or Seville orange.
  • This medicine may affect growth in children and teens. Your doctor will monitor height and weight.
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for 2 weeks after completion of therapy.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Tell your doctor if you start taking any new medicine while taking imatinib because this may change the blood level of imatinib or increase the side effects.
  • Caregivers should follow instructions for safe handling and disposal of the medicine.

Imatinib at Home:

  • This medicine may make you dizzy or drowsy or cause vision changes. Do not drive or do anything that could be dangerous until you see how this medicine affects you.
  • Take imatinib with a meal at the same time each day. Take with a full glass of water.
  • Swallow tablets whole. Do not crush or chew.
  • The tablet may be dissolved in water or apple juice. Use about 50 mL of liquid for the 100 mg tablet or about 200 mL for 400 mg tablet. Mix in a glass, and stir well. Take the medicine right away. To make sure all the medicine is taken, add a little juice to the glass, swish it around, and drink. Never take imatinib with grapefruit juice.
  • Your pharmacist may prepare a liquid form of imatinib for you. Follow the dosing instructions provided.
  • Caregivers should wear gloves when handling this medicine. If the medicine gets on your skin, wash the area right away.
  • Store the medicine at room temperature.
  • In case of a missed dose, skip the dose. Do not give 2 doses at the same time.
  • Do not use the medicine past the expiration date.
  • Follow instructions for safe handling and disposal.