Dasatinib is a targeted therapy drug. It is used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and some types of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

What is dasatinib?

Dasatinib is a targeted therapy drug known as a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. 

It is best to read this information with our general information about targeted therapies and the type of cancer you have.

Dasatinib blocks (inhibits) signals in the leukaemia or cancer cells that make them grow and divide. Blocking the signals causes the cells to die. 

Tyrosine kinases are proteins in the body that control how cells grow and divide. Dasatinib works by blocking (inhibiting) signals in the leukaemia cells that make cells grow and divide. Blocking the signals causes the cells to die.

Your doctor will talk to you about this treatment and its possible side effects before you agree (consent) to have treatment.

When dasatinib is given

Dasatinib may be used to treat:

Your doctor can tell you if it is suitable for you. Some people may be given dasatinib as part of a clinical trial.

How dasatinib is given

Dasatinib comes as tablets, which you can take at home. The nurse or pharmacist will give you the tablets to take home. Always take them exactly as explained. This is important to make sure they work as well as possible for you.

During treatment you will see a haematologist (doctor who treats blood cancers), specialist nurse and a specialist pharmacist. This is who we mean when we mention doctor, nurse or pharmacist in this information. You keep taking dasatinib for as long as your doctor tells you. Do not stop taking it without talking to your doctor. 

Taking dasatinib tablets

You can take dasatinib with or without food. The tablets must be swallowed whole with a glass of water. They should not be chewed, opened or crushed. Take them at the same time every day. Do not take medicines for stomach acid (antacids) for two hours before or two hours after taking dasatinib. Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while you are having this treatment. This can change how effective the drug is.

If you forget to take the capsules or tablets, you should take the missed dose as soon as possible, within the same day. If a full day has gone by, let your doctor or nurse know. Do not take a double dose unless your doctor tells you to.

Other things to remember about your tablets:

  • Keep them in the original package and at room temperature, away from heat and direct sunlight.
  • Keep them safe and out of sight and reach of children.
  • If you are sick just after taking the capsules or tablets, contact the hospital. Do not take another dose.
  • If your treatment is stopped, return any unused tablets to the pharmacist.

About side effects

We explain the most common side effects of this treatment here. We also include some less common side effects. You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are unlikely to get all of them.

If you are also having treatment with other cancer drugs, you may have some side effects that we have not listed here. Always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any side effects you have.

Your doctor can give you drugs to help control some side effects. It is important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains. This means they will be more likely to work for you. Your nurse will give you advice about managing your side effects. After your treatment is over, most side effects start to improve.

Serious and life-threatening side effects

Some cancer treatments can cause severe side effects. Rarely, these may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor or nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.

Contact the hospital

Your nurse will give you telephone numbers for the hospital. If you feel unwell or need advice, you can call them at any time of the day or night. Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe.

More information

We cannot list every side effect for this treatment. There are some rare side effects that are not listed. You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information.

Common side effects

Risk of infection

This treatment can reduce the number of white blood cells in your blood. These cells fight infection. If the number of white blood cells is low, you are more likely to get an infection. A low white blood cell count is called neutropenia.

If you have an infection, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour contact number you have if:

  • your temperature goes over 37.5°C (99.5°F)
  • you suddenly feel unwell, even with a normal temperature
  • you have symptoms of an infection.

Symptoms of an infection include:

  • feeling shivery
  • a sore throat
  • a cough
  • diarrhoea
  • needing to pass urine often.

It is important to follow any specific advice your cancer treatment team gives you.

You will have regular blood tests during treatment. If your white blood cell count is low, your doctor may reduce or delay your treatment for a short time.

Bruising and bleeding

This treatment can reduce the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot. 

Tell your doctor if you have any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain. This includes:

  • nosebleeds
  • bleeding gums
  • tiny red or purple spots on the skin that may look like a rash.

Some people may need a drip to give them extra platelets. This is called a platelet transfusion.

Anaemia (low number of red blood cells)

This treatment can reduce the number of red blood cells in your blood. These cells carry oxygen around the body. If the number of red blood cells is low, you may be tired and breathless. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel like this.

If you are very anaemic, you may need a drip to give you extra blood cells. This is called a blood transfusion.

Build-up of fluid

This usually causes swelling of the ankles or around the eyes. It can also affect different parts of your body. Sometimes fluid may collect in the lining of the lungs (pleural effusion).

Fluid build-up can be treated with drugs that make you pass more urine (diuretics) or with steroid tablets. Your doctor may stop dasatinib for a few days until the build-up of fluid improves.

Always tell your doctor if you notice fluid build-up anywhere. It is important to contact them immediately if you:

  • develop a cough
  • have chest pain
  • feel more breathless than usual
  • or if you gain weight suddenly.

Diarrhoea

This treatment may cause diarrhoea. Diarrhoea means passing more stools (poo) than is usual for you, or having watery or loose stools. If you have a stoma, it will be more active than usual.

If you have diarrhoea:

  • try to drink at least 2 litres (31/2 pints) of fluids each day
  • avoid alcohol, caffeine, milk products, high-fat foods and high-fibre foods
  • contact the hospital for advice.

Feeling sick

Your doctor can prescribe anti-sickness drugs to prevent or control sickness. If you still feel sick, tell your doctor. They can prescribe other anti-sickness drugs that may work better for you.

Headaches

This treatment may cause headaches. If this happens, tell your doctor or nurse. They can give you painkillers.

Muscle and bone pain

Some people have pain in muscles, joints or bones while having treatment. Tell your doctor if this happens. They can prescribe painkillers to help.

Abdominal (tummy pain)

Some people have pain or discomfort in their tummy during treatment with dasatinib. Tell your doctor if this happens to you.

Tiredness

You may feel more tired than usual. Try to pace yourself and get as much rest as you need. Try to balance this with doing some gentle exercise, such as short walks, which will help. If you feel sleepy or dizzy, do not drive or operate machinery.

Loss of appetite

If you lose your appetite when taking dasatinib, try to eat smaller meals more often. If you find it difficult to eat enough, ask to speak to a nurse or dietitian. They can give you advice on getting more calories and protein in your diet. They may give you food supplement drinks to try. Your doctor can prescribe these and you can buy them from chemists.

Skin changes

This treatment can affect your skin. Skin changes can include dryness, rashes, itching and acne. You may also notice that you sweat more. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any skin changes or if they get worse. They can advise you about creams or lotions to use, or prescribe medicines to relieve itching.

If you have a severe rash or any blistering or peeling, contact your doctor immediately.

Your skin may be more sensitive to sun while taking dasatinib. Use a sun cream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 when you are in the sun. Cover up with clothing and a hat.

Mood changes and problems sleeping

Dasatinib can affect your mood. It can also cause difficulty sleeping. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of these side effects.

Effects on the eyes

Your eyes may become dry. Or you may notice changes to how well you can see (blurred vision). In some people, this may affect their ability to drive safely. Tell your doctor if you notice any of these changes. They may prescribe eye drops to help.

Cough or breathlessness

You may feel breathless or develop a cough. Contact your doctor for advice if you develop these symptoms. You should also tell them if any breathing problems you already have get worse.

Effects on the heart

Some people may notice a change to their heartbeat. Let your doctor know if this happens. Less commonly, dasatinib may have other effects on the heart. Contact a doctor immediately if you:

  • have pain or a tightness in your chest
  • feel breathless or dizzy
  • feel your heart is beating too fast or too slowly.

Other conditions can cause these symptoms, but it is important to get them checked by a doctor.

Other information

Other medicines

Some medicines can affect how this treatment works or be harmful when you are having it. Always tell your cancer doctor about any drugs you are taking or planning to take, such as:

  • medicines you have been prescribed
  • medicines you buy in a shop or chemist
  • vitamins, herbal drugs and complementary therapies.

Tell other doctors, pharmacists or dentists who prescribe or give you medicines that you are having this cancer treatment.

You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information about your treatment.

Hepatitis B reactivation

If you have had Hepatitis B (a liver infection) in the past, this treatment can make it active again. Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about this and test you for Hepatitis B.

Lactose

This drug contains lactose. If you have a lactose intolerance, talk to your doctor before you start taking this treatment.

Fertility

Some cancer drugs can affect whether you can get pregnant or make someone pregnant. If you are worried about this, it is important to talk with your doctor before you start treatment.

Contraception

Your doctor will advise you not to get pregnant or make someone pregnant while having this treatment. The drugs may harm a developing baby. It is important to use contraception during your treatment and for a while after treatment finishes. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can tell you more about this.

Breastfeeding

Women are advised not to breastfeed while having this treatment. This is because the drugs could be passed to the baby through breast milk.

Medical and dental treatment

If you need medical treatment for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are having cancer treatment. Give them the contact details for your cancer doctor so they can ask for advice.

If you think you need dental treatment, talk to your cancer doctor or nurse. Always tell your dentist you are having cancer treatment.

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