Imatinib is an oral chemotherapeutic used primarily to treat chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). The potential effects of cancer treatments on a patient’s future fertility are a major concern affecting the quality of life for cancer survivors. The effects of imatinib on future fertility are unknown. It is teratogenic. Therefore, patients are advised to stop treatment before pregnancy. Unfortunately, CML and GIST have high rates of recurrence in the absence of the drug, therefore halting imatinib during pregnancy endangers the mother. Possible long-term (post-treatment) effects of imatinib on reproduction have not been studied. We have used a mouse model to examine the effects of imatinib on the placenta and implantation after long-term imatinib exposure. We found significant changes in epigenetic markers of key imprinted genes in the placenta. There was a significant decrease in the labyrinth zone and vasculature of the placenta, which could impact fetal growth later in pregnancy. These effects on placental growth occurred even when imatinib was stopped prior to pregnancy. These results indicate potential long-term effects of imatinib on pregnancy and implantation. A prolonged wash-out period prior to pregnancy or extra monitoring for possible placental insufficiency may be advisable.
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