Author: Anoma Ranaweera B.V. Sc; PhD (Clinical Biochemistry, University of Liverpool, UK). Chief Editor: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, May 2015.

Imatinib mesylate (Gleevac®; USA and Glivec® Europe, New Zealand, from Novartis) is a small molecule inhibitor of ABL, KIT, and platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) tyrosine kinases. It is an FDA-approved oral treatment for chronic myeloid leukaemia, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative disease, chronic eosinophilic leukaemia and metastatic/malignant gastrointestinal stromal tumours. Imatinib has also been used for the treatment of some skin conditions.

Indications of imatinib in dermatology

Reported uses of imatinib in dermatology include:

With the exception of dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, all other off-label dermatology indications are based on isolated case reports and/or small, uncontrolled series.

Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans

HIV-related Kaposi sarcoma

Cutaneous manifestations of hypereosinophilic syndrome

Sclerodermatous chronic graft vs host disease

Systemic sclerosis

Imatinib has also been used in generalised morphoea.


Cutaneous mastocytosis


Imatinib has been suggested if certain C-kit mutations present in certain types of melanoma;


Imatinib has also been reported to have been used successfully for:

Drug interactions with imatinib

Adverse effects with imatinib

The most frequently reported adverse reactions (>30%) are:

Skin changes

Common skin changes that occur during treatment with imatinib include:

Less common reactions include:

Some skin changes may be related to underlying haematological conditions, their treatment and/or immunosuppression:

Use of imatinib in specific populations


Nursing mothers

Paediatric use

Geriatric use

Hepatic impairment

Renal impairment


New Zealand approved datasheets are the official source of information for these prescription medicines, including approved uses and risk information. Check the individual New Zealand datasheet on the Medsafe website.

Related information

Email Newsletter

Would you like to receive DermNet updates by email?

Submit your images

We're seeking high-quality photos of skin diseases.  


Skin lesion photography

Watch Dr Amanda Oakley presenting "Skin lesion photography" at The Australasian Skin Cancer Congress.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
DermNet NZ Newsletter