We are writing in response to the Letter of Dr. Guiseppe Visani and colleagues, ‘The incidence of pleural and pericardial effusion is not higher in patients receiving dasatinib at low doses’.1 We agree that in our study, noncomorbid and comorbid patients and those with accelerated phase disease were included.2 We also agree that in patients with Ph+ chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) treated with low-dose dasatinib (50–100 mg/day), the incidence of pleural and pericardial effusions is lower (definitively not higher) compared to high-dose dasatinib (140 mg/day).3 This was also found in our patients.2,4 In addition, we agree that in ‘chronic phase-patients’ without comorbidity the frequency of effusion formation may be lower.5 Finally, first-line dasatinib at low dose6 may even be less toxic compared to second-line dasatinib used in pre-treated patients.3,5
However, unfortunately, the ‘real-life’ to which the authors refer in their letter usually includes both patients without and patients with comorbidities, and in the second-line setting, to which most published data and our data refer, many patients have suboptimal response or even show signs of disease-acceleration2–5 (then 140 mg dasatinib/day is often recommended). In addition, such patients tend to develop comorbidities such as infections and weight-loss during dasatinib.4 Therefore, we do not agree with the authors’ conclusion that our information is misleading, but would rather argue that their statement1 is questionable, as it would suggest that real life exists without comorbidities, drug resistance, or disease-acceleration.
Where we agree is the fact that the frequency of pleural effusions in second-line patients treated with low-dose dasatinib is lower compared to second-line patients treated with high-dose dasatinib (140 mg/day). Notably, in our (small) patients’ cohorts, including both comorbid and non-comorbid patients, the difference in the frequency of pleural effusions is clearly visible:2,4 in fact, whereas 75% of patients at 140 mg daily developed pleural effusions (grade II or higher) over time,4 only 56% of those who started at 50 or 100 mg/day developed pleural effusions.2 Why these frequencies are still higher when compared to the available literature may have several explanations. One may be the fact that this side effect is accumulating over time. Another explanation may be under-reporting in clinical trials.7 Notably, in most studies, chest X-rays were only performed routinely until ‘month 6’, and later only if symptoms were noted,3,6 whereas in our center, all dasatinib-treated patients had repeated chest X-rays over the entire time period (at least once a year). In other words, most other published data refer only to the frequency of symptomatic pleural effusions. There may also be other reasons for under-reporting which we have discussed recently.7
Finally, we would like to state that we believe that a repeated chest X-ray should indeed be considered in both younger (non-comorbid) and older (often comorbid) patients: in older patients because of the comorbidity-associated risk, and in younger patients because they are potential candidates for stem cell transplantation. For such patients it may be a less favorable scenario if effusion-formation or viral infection/reactivation is overlooked before they are referred.
- Visani G, Breccia M, Montefusco E, Morra E, Santini V, Isidori A. The incidence of pleural and pericardial effusion is not higher in patients receiving dasatinib at low doses. Haematologica. 2011; 96(4):e23-4. Google Scholar
- Krauth MT, Herndlhofer S, Schmook MT, Mitterbauer-Hohendanner G, Schlögl E, Valent P. Extensive pleural and pericardial effusion in chronic myeloid leukemia during treatment with dasatinib at 100 mg or 50 mg daily. Haematologica. 2011; 96(1):163-6. Google Scholar
- Shah NP, Kantarjian HM, Kim DW, Réa D, Dorlhiac-Llacer PE, Milone JH. Intermittent target inhibition with dasatinib 100 mg once daily preserves efficacy and improves tolerability in imatinib-resistant and –intolerant chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia. J Clin Oncol. 2008; 26(19):3204-12. Google Scholar
- Sillaber C, Herrmann H, Bennett K, Rix U, Baumgartner C, Böhm A. Immunosuppression and atypical infections in CML patients treated with dasatinib at 140 mg daily. Eur J Clin Invest. 2009; 39(12):1098-109. Google Scholar
- Quintás-Cardama A, Kantarjian H, O'Brien S, Borthakur G, Bruzzi J, Munden R. Pleural effusion in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia treated with dasatinib after imatinib failure. J Clin Oncol. 2007; 25(25):3908-14. Google Scholar
- Kantarjian H, Shah NP, Hochhaus A, Cortes J, Shah S, Ayala M. Dasatinib versus imatinib in newly diagnosed chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med. 2010; 362(24):2260-70. Google Scholar
- Valent P. There is something wrong in Paradise: Christian Beliefs and the Safety of novel BCR/ABL1 Inhibitors. Haematologica. 2011; 96(3):e16-7. Google Scholar