Dasatinib is a type of targeted cancer drug. It is also known by its brand name Sprycel. You might have it as a treatment for:
chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) 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 it works
Dasatinib is a type of drug called a cancer growth blocker. It works by blocking particular proteins on cancer cells that encourage the cancer to grow. This can help shrink the cancer or stop it growing.
How you have it
You have dasatinib as tablets once a day. You swallow them whole. You can take them with or without food. Take them at the same time each day.
If you’re taking medicines for indigestion (antacids), take them either 2 hours before or 2 hours after the dasatinib. These medicines can stop the body absorbing dasatinib. You should not take any other medicines that affect the production of stomach acid.
Taking your tablets
Your doctor will tell you how many tablets to take.
You should take the right dose, not more or less.
Never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.
When you have dasatinib
You take dasatinib for as long as it is working, and the side effects aren’t too bad.
You have blood tests before and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.
How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatments you're having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you're also having other drugs or radiotherapy.
When to contact your team
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:
- you have severe side effects
- your side effects aren’t getting any better
- your side effects are getting worse
Early treatment can help manage side effects better.
We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.
Common side effects
These side effects happen in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
Increased risk of getting an infection
Increased risk of getting an infection is due to a drop in white blood cells. Symptoms include a change in temperature, aching muscles, headaches, feeling cold and shivery and generally unwell. You might have other symptoms depending on where the infection is.
Infections can sometimes be life threatening. You should contact your advice line urgently if you think you have an infection.
Breathlessness and looking pale
You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is called anaemia.
Bruising, bleeding gums or nosebleeds
This is due to a drop in the number of platelets in your blood. These blood cells help the blood to clot when we cut ourselves. You may have nosebleeds or bleeding gums after brushing your teeth. Or you may have lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechiae).
Contact your advice line if you have diarrhoea, such as if you've had 4 or more loose watery poos (stools) in 24 hours. Or if you can't drink to replace the lost fluid. Or if it carries on for more than 3 days.
Your doctor may give you anti diarrhoea medicine to take home with you after treatment. Eat less fibre, avoid raw fruits, fruit juice, cereals and vegetables, and drink plenty to replace the fluid lost.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you keep getting headaches. They can give you painkillers to help.
Fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)
Talk to the team looking after you if you are breathless.
Skin problems include a skin rash, dry skin and itching. This usually goes back to normal when your treatment finishes. Your nurse will tell you what products you can use on your skin to help.
Fluid build up (oedema)
A build up of fluid may cause swelling in your arms, hands, ankles, legs, face and other parts of the body. Contact your doctor if this happens to you.
Tiredness and weakness (fatigue)
You might feel very tired and as though you lack energy.
Various things can help you to reduce tiredness and cope with it, for example exercise. Some research has shown that taking gentle exercise can give you more energy. It is important to balance exercise with resting.
Feeling or being sick
Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Avoiding fatty or fried foods, eating small meals and snacks, drinking plenty of water, and relaxation techniques can all help.
It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treating it once it has started.
Bone or muscle pain
You might feel some pain from your muscles and joints. Speak to your doctor or nurse about what painkillers you can take to help with this.
Tummy (abdominal) pain
Tell your treatment team if you have this. They can check the cause and give you medicine to help.
High temperature (fever)
If you get a high temperature, let your health care team know straight away. Ask them if you can take paracetamol to help lower your temperature.
Occasional side effects
These side effects happen in between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people (between 1 and 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- a serious reaction to an infection (sepsis) signs can include feeling very unwell, not passing urine, being sick, a very high or very low temperature or shivering - contact your advice line straight away if you have any of these symptoms
- numbness or tingling in fingers or toes
- indigestion and heartburn
- loss or increase of appetite, or taste changes
- sore mouth and ulcers
- hair loss
- ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- eye problems such as dry eyes or blurred vision
- aching and stiff muscles and joints
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- general weakness
- weight changes
- feeling very cold, shaky and shivery (chills)
- high blood pressure
- high uric acid levels in the blood
- feeling sleepy
- heart problems symptoms might include fast or irregular heartbeat, chest pain and cough. Tests might show there is fluid around the heart
- lung problems such as infection, fluid in the lung and a cough
- inflammation of the large bowel (colitis) and stomach
- swollen or bloated tummy
- difficulty passing poo (constipation)
- sweating more than usual
- twitching or jerky muscle movement (muscle spasm)
Rare side effects
These side effects happen in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- confusion or memory changes
- low levels of thyroid hormones which can make you feel tired, unable to cope with the cold and you might get muscle cramps
- lack of fluid in the body (dehydration)
- changes in mineral levels in the blood ( high levels of chemicals in your blood due to the breakdown of tumour cells (tumour lysis syndrome) - you have regular blood tests to check for this)
- loss of interest in sex
- hearing loss
- balance changes (vertigo)
- liver changes
- growth of breast tissue in men (gynecomastia)
- periods stopping
- swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the body
- high levels of a fatty substance called cholesterol in the blood
- trembling and shaking (tremor)
- watery or sticky eyes, you might also be sensitive to the light
- low blood pressure
- blood clots that can be life threatening; signs are pain, redness and swelling where the clot is. Feeling breathless can be a sign of a blood clot in the lung. Contact your advice line or doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms
- inflammation of different parts of the body including the pancreas, food pipe, muscles, tendons and veins
- difficulty swallowing
- fluid build up in the tummy (ascites)
- bone loss
- kidney problems such as going to the toilet more often and protein in your urine. You might also have changes to blood tests
Coping with side effects
We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.
What else do I need to know?
Other medicines, foods and drink
Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.
Grapefruit and grapefruit juice
You should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice when you are taking this drug because it may increase the side effect.
This drug contains lactose (milk sugar). If you have an intolerance to lactose, contact your doctor before taking this medicine.
Pregnancy and contraception
This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you're having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
It is not known whether this treatment affects fertility in people. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future.
It is not known whether this drug comes through into the breast milk. Doctors usually advise that you don’t breastfeed during this treatment.
Treatment for other conditions
Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.
Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.
In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and one of the shingles vaccines called Zostavax.
You can have:
- other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- the flu vaccine (as an injection)
- the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine - talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best time to have it in relation to your cancer treatment
Members of your household who are aged 5 years or over are also able to have the COVID-19 vaccine. This is to help lower your risk of getting COVID-19 while having cancer treatment and until your
Contact with others who have had immunisations - You can be in contact with other people who have had live vaccines as injections. Avoid close contact with people who have recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as the oral typhoid vaccine.
If your immune system is severely weakened, you should avoid contact with children who have had the flu vaccine as a nasal spray as this is a live vaccine. This is for 2 weeks following their vaccination.
Babies have the live rotavirus vaccine. The virus is in the baby’s poo for about 2 weeks and could make you ill if your immunity is low. Get someone else to change their nappies during this time if you can. If this isn't possible, wash your hands well after changing their nappy.
More information about this treatment
For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.
You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.