Imatinib plasma levels are correlated with clinical benefit in patients with unresectable/metastatic gastrointestinal stromal tumors

George D. Demetri, Yanfeng Wang, Elisabeth Wehrle, Amy Racine, Zariana Nikolova, Charles D. Blanke, Heikki Joensuu, Margaret Von Mehren

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253 Scopus citations


Purpose: To study the pharmacokinetics (PK) of imatinib (IM) in patients with advanced GI stromal tumors (GISTs) treated in a randomized phase II study and to explore the potential relationship between IM plasma levels and long-term clinical outcomes. Patients and Methods: Patients were randomly assigned to receive IM at 400 mg versus 600 mg daily. IM plasma levels were analyzed in a subset of patients (n = 73) for whom PK data on day 1 and at steady-state (SS, day 29) were available. IM PK was evaluated using a population PK approach. The relationship between IM plasma exposure and clinical outcome was explored by grouping patients into quartiles according to IM trough concentration (C min). The clinical outcome parameters evaluated include overall objective benefit rate (OOBR; complete response plus partial response plus stable disease) time to progression (TTP), and KIT genotyping. Results: IM PK exposure showed a high inter-patient variability, and clinical outcomes were correlated with IM trough levels at SS. The median TTP was 11.3 months for patients in the lowest Cmin quartile (Q1, < 1,110 ng/mL) compared with more than 30 months for Q2 to Q4 (P = .0029). OOBR was also inferior in Q1 patients. In patients with GIST with KIT exon 11 mutations (n = 39), the OOBR was 67% for Q1 patients versus 100% for all others (P = .001). Conclusion: In patients with advanced GIST, IM trough levels at SS were associated with clinical benefit. Patients with IM Cmin below 1,100 ng/mL showed a shorter TTP and lower rate of clinical benefit (OOBR). Further studies are justified to test whether monitoring IM plasma levels might optimize clinical outcomes for patients with GIST.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3141-3147
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Jul 1 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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