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Dasatinib (Sprycel)

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This page tells you about the biological therapy drug dasatinib and its possible side effects. There is information about


What dasatinib is

Dasatinib is pronounced das-at-in-nib and is also known by its brand name Sprycel.

Dasatinib is a treatment for

  • Chronic myeloid leukaemia – for people who have already had other treatments including imatinib
  • Acute myeloid leukaemia which is Philadelphia chromosome positive, when other treatments are no longer working
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia which is Philadelphia chromosome positive, when other treatments are no longer working

It is also being used in clinical trials for other types of cancer.


How dasatinib works

Dasatinib is a type of drug called a protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). Tyrosine kinases are proteins that act as chemical messengers to stimulate cancer cells to grow. Dasatinib blocks and interferes with how cells make a number of protein kinases and is called a multi kinase inhibitor. It works by blocking the signals that tell the cells to grow.


How you have dasatinib

Dasatinib comes as tablets that you swallow whole with a glass of water. You can take them with or without food. You have dasatinib either once or twice a day. You usually carry on taking it for as long as it works, unless the side effects get too bad.

If you are taking any medicines for indigestion (antacids), take them either 2 hours before or 2 hours after the dasatinib. These medicines can stop the stomach absorbing dasatinib. You should not take any other medicines that affect the production of stomach acid.

It is very important that you take tablets according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you. For example, whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream. You should take the right dose, not more or less. And never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.

The side effects associated with dasatinib are listed below. Remember that you may only have a few of them. For more information look in our cancer drug side effects section.


Common side effects

More than 10 in every 100 people have one or more of the side effects listed below.

  • An increased risk of getting an infection from a drop in white blood cells – it is harder to fight infections and you can become very ill. You may have headaches, aching muscles, a cough, a sore throat, pain passing urine, or you may feel cold and shivery. If you have a severe infection this can be life threatening. Contact your treatment centre straight away if you have any of these effects or if your temperature goes above 38°C. You will have regular blood tests to check your blood cell levels
  • Tiredness and breathlessness due to a drop in red blood cells (anaemia) – you may need a blood transfusion
  • Bruising more easily due to a drop in platelets – you may have nosebleeds, bleeding gums after brushing your teeth, or lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechia)
  • Diarrhoea occurs in 3 out of 10 people (30%) – drink plenty of fluids and tell your doctor or nurse if it becomes severe or lasts for more than 3 days
  • Headaches happen in 1 in 4 people (25%)
  • Fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) affects 1 in 4 people (25%) – this can be a serious problem so if you are breathless or have a cough contact your doctor or nurse straight away
  • Skin changes happen in just over 1 in 5 people (20%) and you may have a rash or red, dry, itchy skin – this can be difficult to cope with so tell your doctor or nurse
  • Fluid build up in the body affects 1 in 5 people (20%) – you may need to take tablets to reduce the amount of fluid. It can build up anywhere including your legs, face and around your body organs
  • Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) occurs in 1 out of 5 people (20%) during and after treatment – most people find their energy levels are back to normal within 6 months to a year
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Depression – let your doctor or nurse know if you feel depressed
  • Feeling and being sick happens in 1 in 5 (20%) people but this is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Let your doctor or nurse know if it is not controlled
  • Bone and muscle pain affect 1 out of 10 people (10%)
  • Loss of fertility – you may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future. Men may be able to store sperm before starting treatment

Occasional side effects

Between 1 and 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these effects.

  • Numbness or tingling in fingers and toes can cause difficulty with fiddly things such as doing up buttons – this starts within a few days or weeks and usually goes within a few months of finishing treatment
  • Indigestion occurs in less than 1 in 10 people (10%)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aching joints
  • A sore mouth
  • Hair thinning
  • Dizziness – do not drive or operate machinery if you have this
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) – this usually gets better after your treatment ends
  • Eye problems – these include blurred vision, dry eyes and infections

Rare side effects

Fewer than 1 in 100 people have these effects.

  • Heart problems including chest pain – contact your doctor or nurse straight away if you have any pain
  • Stevens Johnson syndrome , which is a painful inflammation of the eyes, eyelids and skin. Contact your doctor or nurse straight away if you have this

Important points to remember

You may have 1 or 2 side effects or several. A side effect may get worse through your course of treatment. Or you may have more side effects as the course goes on. This depends on

  • How many times you've had a drug before
  • Your general health
  • How much of the drug you have (the dose)
  • Other drugs you are taking

Coping with side effects

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so they can help you manage them. They can give you advice or reassure you. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.

Other medicines

Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Some drugs can react together.

Pregnancy and contraception

This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


Do not breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in the breast milk.



You should not have immunisations with live vaccines while you are having treatment or for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, these include rubella, mumps, measles (usually given together as MMR), BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can have other vaccines, but they may not give you as much protection as usual until your immune system has fully recovered from your treatment. It is safe to have the flu vaccine.

It is safe for you to be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections. There can be problems with vaccines you take by mouth (oral vaccines), but not many people in the UK have these now. So there is usually no problem in being with any baby or child who has recently had any vaccination in the UK. You might need to make sure that you aren't in contact with anyone who has had oral polio, cholera or typhoid vaccination recently, particularly if you live abroad.


More information about dasatinib

This page does not list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at www.medicines.org.uk.

If you have a side effect not mentioned here that you think may be due to this treatment you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) at www.mhra.gov.uk.

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Updated: 4 August 2014