Imatinib can increase bone mineral density in patients with resected gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), according to the results of a new study published in the Journal of Bone Oncology. Imatinib treatment therefore could improve patients’ quality of life, performance status, and prognosis.

It is already known that imatinib has an effect on bone mineral density in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia. However, the effect of the drug in GIST, for which adjuvant therapy is the standard of care in case of high-risk resected disease, has not been investigated.

Here, a team of researchers led by Bruno Vincenzi, MD, PhD, from Bio-Medico Campus University Hospital in Rome, Italy retrospectively evaluated the effect of adjuvant imatinib on bone mineral density and muscle composition in 14 patients with surgically resected GISTs.

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They compared this to a control group of 8 patients who did not receive any treatment, and also evaluated the effect of bone and muscle composition on imatinib tolerance.

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They found that patients receiving imatinib had an increase in bone mineral density during treatment. The increase was greater in patients with basal values of less than 120 mg/cm3. There was no change in the control group.

Imatinib did not have an effect on skeletal muscle index and lean body mass but patients with lower lean body mass and lower body mass index had more grade 3 treatment-related toxicities. There was also a trend between bone mineral density and grade 3 toxicities but this was not statistically significant.

“Larger prospective trials with metabolic, pharmacokinetics and quality of life evaluations would be warranted to consolidate our findings, which could have implications for the management of patients receiving Imatinib as a precautional treatment,” the authors said.

Imatinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that could prevent disease recurrence and improve survival rates in patients with GISTs.


Fulgenzi CAM, Napolitano A, Faiella E, et al. Impact of adjuvant imatinib on bone and muscle density in patients with resected gastrointestinal stromal tumors. J Bone Oncol. Published online March 9, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.jbo.2022.100422