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Imatinib (Gleevec)

Article Translations: (Spanish)

How does this medicine work?

Imatinib (im-at-in-ib) is a chemotherapy medicine that destroys cancer cells by blocking signals that tell the cells to divide.

How should I give it?

Imatinib is given by mouth as a tablet. Give it at the same time each day to keep a steady level in the bloodstream. Your child should be awake and alert when taking any medicine.

___ For children who cannot swallow pills:

  1. Put on gloves.
  2. Place the required number of tablets in a glass of water or apple juice. Each 100 mg tablet should be dissolved in about 2 ounces of liquid. Stir well.
  3. Make sure your child drinks all the liquid. Follow with a large glass of water.
  4. Wash spoons and container right after use. Discard gloves.

Are there any precautions about food or other medicines?

Imatinib should be taken with food to prevent stomach upset.

Imatinib can interact with many other medicines. Check with the doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist before giving any other prescription or non-prescription medicines, herbs, or vitamins.

What should I do if a dose is missed?

If a dose is missed, give it as soon as you remember that day. If it is near the time for the next dose, wait until then to take the medicine and skip the missed dose. Never give a double dose.

If your child vomits and the tablet(s) can be seen and counted, repeat the dose with the number of tablets seen. If the dose was taken as a liquid, replace the dose only if vomiting happened right after swallowing. Call the oncology clinic if more than one dose is missed or vomited.

What are the side effects?


  • low blood cell counts
  • low platelets (increased clotting time)
  • bleeding, anemia
  • nausea, vomiting
  • heartburn


  • headache
  • stomach pain, cramping
  • muscle aches
  • edema (swelling)
  • rash
  • fever
  • tiredness
  • change in liver function


  • diarrhea
  • trouble swallowing
  • heart failure
  • kidney problems

When should I call the clinic?

  • signs of infection (see below)
  • yellow eyes or skin
  • dark-colored urine
  • rapid weight gain
  • swelling of hands, feet, or ankles
  • shortness of breath
  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • signs of allergic reaction:
    • fever or chills
    • rash or hives
    • wheezing
    • trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

While your child is receiving chemotherapy, the immune system is compromised, which means it has a decreased ability to fight infection. Watch for signs of infection such as fever, chills, cough, runny nose, or increased fatigue.

All caregivers should wear gloves when handling urine, stool, and vomit while your child is receiving the chemotherapy and for 48 hours afterward. Urine, stool, and vomit can be safely disposed of in septic tanks and the sewer system.

Any clothing or bed linens that are contaminated with urine, stool, or vomit should be washed separately from other laundry in hot water and detergent. Wear gloves when handling contaminated laundry.

Blood samples are needed to check the effects of the medicine. Complete blood counts should be done weekly for the first month, every 2 weeks during the second month, and every 2 to 3 months after that.

You and your child should know the names of all the medicines he or she is taking. Share this information with anyone involved in your child's care.

Always make sure you have enough medicine on hand. Each time you refill your prescription, check to see how many refills are left. If no refills are left, the pharmacy will need 2 or 3 days to contact the clinic to renew the prescription.

Check the label for the expiration date. Return outdated medicines to the clinic or to your pharmacy for disposal. Do not flush down the toilet or put them in the garbage.

Store all medicines in their original containers and away from direct sunlight or heat. Do not store in humid places such as the bathroom. Keep them out of children's reach, locked up if possible.

If too much or the wrong kind of chemotherapy medicine is taken, call the oncology clinic. If your child is unconscious or has a seizure, call 911.


This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the oncology clinic or pharmacy.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Last reviewed 8/2015 

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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