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Gleevec and the possibility of birth defects

Gleevec and the possibility of birth defects

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My brother is taking Gleevec and his wife wanted a child. Now she is pregnant and my family is concerned that this chemotherapy can be a cause for fetal anomalies.  

Answer

Selina M. Luger, MD, Director of the Leukemia Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Gleevec has never been given to pregnant women and on the clinical trials that were performed all participants, men as well as women as well as their partners were required to use contraception. Gleevec (Imatinib mesylate) has caused significant birth defects in rats when given at the doses equivalent to those used in humans. As such, unfortunately there is a risk of birth defects and this should be discussed with the wife's obstetrician as well as the patient's physician.