Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a fibrosing connective tissue disease with significantly increased mortality. Therapeutic options to treat fibrosis are limited. The small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib and related drugs such as dasatinib and nilotinib target simultaneously two of the major profibrotic pathways, TGFβ- and PDGF- signaling. Imatinib, dasatinib and nilotinib inhibit collagen synthesis in cultured fibroblasts and have potent anti-fibrotic effects in animal models of different fibrotic diseases. Moreover, several case reports, case series and uncontrolled studies on patients with SSc, mixed connective tissue disease, nephrogenic systemic fibrosis and in particular sclerodermatous graft versus host disease (cGvHD) report regression of fibrosis and good tolerability. However, the results of larger controlled trials, which are currently ongoing, are needed before any conclusions on efficacy and tolerability can be drawn. Until the results of these trials are available, we discourage off-label use of Imatinib in single patients.
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Competing interests OD has consultancy relationships and/or has received research funding from Actelion, Pfizer, Encysive, FibroGen, Ergonex, NicOx and Biovitrum in the area of potential treatments of scleroderma and its complications. He has received lecture honoraria from Actelion, Pfizer, Encysive and Ergonex. JD has consultancy agreements with Actelion and Encysive and received financial support from Novartis, Ergonex, Bayer, Celgene and BMS.
Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.