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Male Sterility from Gleevec

Male Sterility from Gleevec

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My 27 year-old son was recently diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). He is starting on the chemo drug Gleevec. What chance is there that would cause him sterility?

Answer

Michael Vozniak, PharmD, BCOP, Hematology/Oncology Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, responds:

Clinical experience with Gleevec (Imatinib) suggests that it is very unlikely to cause sterility, and presently there is no human data available demonstrating permanent sterility with this agent. There is some mention of reduced sperm counts, but this appears to be a temporary effect and does not result in complete sterility. There have even been a few successful pregnancies documented with men who are currently taking imatinib, suggesting adequate fertility.

That being said, it is generally recommended that patients who are being treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy wait six months before conceiving due to the general potential risk of birth defects in the unborn fetus. At this time, there is no good evidence in humans to suggest a significant risk of chromosomal abnormalities in children born to men who were treated with Gleevec, but it may be too early to tell. Continued long-term follow up is needed to better understand all of the possible side effects.