Anticancer drug helps immune system battle infection

Anticancer drug helps immune system battle infection | Courtesy of
Researchers from Emory University recently found that low doses of imatinib, or Gleevec, an anticancer drug, can encourage the immune system to combat bacterial infections.

Research results published Monday in PLOS Pathogens journal indicate imatinib provokes a person’s bone marrow into creating more intrinsic immune cells. This strengthens the person’s immune response to bacterial infections.

The results suggest that imatinib and similar drugs may be able to treat a diverse selection of infections, possibly even infections that have antibiotic resistant.

Imatinib may also help patients with autoimmune disorders to fight off illnesses.

The study involved mice as well as human bone marrow cells in vitro.

"We think that low doses of imatinib are mimicking 'emergency hematopoiesis,' a normal early response to infection," senior author of the study and Emory University School of Medicine Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Daniel Kalman said.

"This was surprising because there are reports that imatinib can be immunosuppressive in some patients," Kalman said. "Our data suggest that at subclinical doses, imatinib can stimulate bone marrow stem cells to produce several types of myeloid cells, such as neutrophils and macrophages, and trigger their exodus from the bone marrow. However, higher doses appear to inhibit this process."