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SOHO 2020: Indian Study of Protective Potential of Imatinib Against Malaria

By: Lauren Harrison, MS
Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2020

The tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib, a mainstay in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), may confer protection against the plasmodium falciparum parasite and development of malaria, according to the findings of a recent study by Indian researchers. According to Asif Iqbal, MBBS, of the Institute of Haematology and Transfusion Medicine in Kolkata, India, and colleagues, the potential protection conferred by imatinib therapy may be due to the dependence of malaria parasites on red blood cell tyrosine kinases for entry, maturation, and exit. Their findings were presented during the virtual edition of the 2020 Society of Hematologic Oncology (SOHO) Annual Meeting (Abstract CML-004).

The team performed a case-control study of 191 patients with chronic-phase CML who were on continuous treatment with imatinib for at least 1 year. The control group included 205 patients without CML who donated blood at regular intervals at the Institute of Haematolgy and Blood Transfusion. Patients were tested for malaria using a rapid diagnostic kit, with confirmation of diagnosis using a single reverse primer polymerase chain reaction. All patients who developed malaria were treated with artemisinin-based combination therapy.

Among the group with CML, four patients had family/community members with plasmodium vivax, whereas two patients in the control group had family/community members with plasmodium vivax. Neither group had a history of plasmodium falciparum in their family nor locality. There were four total patients with CML who had malaria: three with vivax malaria and one with combined vivax and falciparum. By comparison, ten patients in the control group tested positive for malaria, including three vivax, three falciparum, and four with both. This represented a 0.15 relative risk of acquiring malaria among patients treated with imatinib (P = .075). Two-tailed P value determined using Fisher's exact test was .068 for malaria and .0381 for falciparum parasitemia.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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