Dasatinib (Sprycel®)

Dasatinib is a targeted therapy drug used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL ). It is best to read this information with our general information about the type of cancer you have.

Dasatinib is usually given as tablets. You usually have it as an outpatient. Your leukaemia doctor or nurse will tell you how often you will have it.

Like all targeted therapy drugs, dasatinib can cause side effects. Some of the side effects can be serious, so it’s important that you read the detailed information below. Your healthcare team can talk to you more about this and give you advice on how to manage any side effects.

Tell your doctor or nurse immediately if you have:

  • a temperature
  • feel unwell
  • have severe side effects, including any we don’t mention here.

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

If you need to seek medical attention for any reason other than cancer, always tell the healthcare staff that you are having this treatment.

How dasatinib works

Dasatinib is a type of drug called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It works by blocking (inhibiting) signals in the leukaemia cells that make them grow and divide. Blocking the signals causes the cells to die.

How targeted therapies work

This animation shows how targeted therapies work and what effect they have on the body.

About our cancer information videos

How targeted therapies work

This animation shows how targeted therapies work and what effect they have on the body.

About our cancer information videos


When dasatinib is used

Dasatinib may be used to treat:

Your specialist doctor can tell you if it's appropriate for you. If a drug isn’t available on the NHS, there may be other ways you can have it. Your doctor can give you advice about this.


Taking dasatinib

Dasatinib is usually taken once a day. Take the tablets at the same time each day. You can take them with or without food. Swallow them whole with a large glass of water. It is important not to crush or break the tablets.

Do not take medicines for stomach acid (antacids) for two hours before or two hours after taking dasatinib. Avoid grapefruit juice while taking dasatinib as it can make some side effects worse.

There are some important things to remember when taking your tablets:

  • If you forget to take your tablets, do not take a double dose. Keep to your regular schedule and tell your doctor or nurse.
  • If you are sick just after taking the tablets, contact the hospital. You may need to take another dose.
  • Keep them in the original package at room temperature, away from heat and direct sunlight.
  • Keep them safe and out of the reach of children.
  • Get a new prescription before you run out.
  • Make sure you have plenty for holidays.
  • If your treatment is stopped, return any remaining tablets to the pharmacist.


Possible 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 here, but you will not get them all. Always tell your doctor or nurse about any side effects you have.

If you have other cancer drugs along with bortezomib, some side effects may be worse. You may also have side effects not listed here. We have more information about targeted cancer drugs and chemotherapy.

If a side effect is more severe, your doctors may need to reduce the dose of bortezomib or stop the treatment for a short time. Some people may have bortezomib stopped completely.

Your doctor can give you drugs to help control some side effects. It is very important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist has explained. This will help the drugs work as well as possible for you. Your nurse will give you advice about managing side effects. Most side effects start to improve after treatment has finished.

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.

Effect on blood cells

Dasatinib can reduce the number of blood cells in your blood. This is less common if you are having treatment for chronic-phase CML. You will have regular blood tests to check your blood cells.

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 shaky
  • a sore throat
  • a cough
  • diarrhoea
  • needing to pass urine a lot.

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

The number of white blood cells will usually return to normal before your next treatment. You will have a blood test before having more treatment. If your white blood cell count is low, your doctor may 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 or nurse if you have any bruising or bleeding that you can’t explain. This includes:

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

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 is a common side effect. It can affect different parts of your body. Most commonly it causes swelling of the ankles or swelling around the eyes. Sometimes fluid may collect in the lining of the lungs (pleural effusion). It may be treated with drugs that make you pass more urine (diuretics) or with steroid tablets. Sometimes treatment with dasatinib is stopped for a few days until the fluid settles. It can then be restarted.

Always tell your doctor if you notice any fluid build-up. It’s important to contact them immediately if you develop a cough, chest pain, feel more breathless than usual, or if you gain weight suddenly.

Diarrhoea

If you have diarrhoea, contact the hospital for advice. Try to drink at least 2 litres (3½ pints) of fluids every day. It can help to avoid alcohol, caffeine, milk products, high-fat foods and high-fibre foods.

Feeling sick

Your doctor can give you anti-sickness drugs to help 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. Your doctor can prescribe painkillers if you have this.

Abdominal (tummy) pain

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

Feeling tired

Feeling tired is a common side effect. Try to pace yourself and plan your day so you have time to rest. Gentle exercise, like short walks, can give you more energy. If you feel sleepy, do not drive or operate machinery.

Loss of appetite

This treatment can affect your appetite. Don’t worry if you don’t eat much for a day or two. But if your appetite does not come back after a few days, tell your nurse or dietitian. They will give you advice. They may give you food or drink supplements.

Skin changes

This treatment may affect your skin. It can cause a rash, which may be itchy. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what to expect. If your skin feels dry, try using an unperfumed moisturising cream every day.

Always tell your doctor or nurse about any skin changes or if they get worse. They can give you advice and may prescribe creams or medicines to help. Any changes to your skin are usually temporary and improve when treatment finishes.

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.

Effects on the heart

Some people may notice a change in their heartbeat. Less commonly, dasatinib may have other effects on the heart. Contact a doctor immediately if you:

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

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.

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.


Other information

Other drugs

Some medicines, including ones you buy in a shop or chemist, can be harmful while you are having this treatment. Tell your cancer doctor about any medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal drugs and complementary therapies.

This treatment contains a small amount of lactose. If you have a lactose intolerance, talk to your doctor before you start the treatment.

Fertility

Doctors don’t yet know how this treatment may affect your fertility (the ability to become pregnant or father a child). If you are worried about this, talk to you doctor before treatment starts.

Contraception

Your doctor will advise you not to get pregnant or father a child while having this treatment and for some time afterwards. The drugs may harm the developing baby. It is important to use effective contraception.

Breastfeeding

Women are advised not to breastfeed while having this treatment and for some time afterwards. 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 this treatment.