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Is Sprycel a chemotherapy drug?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Feb 2, 2024.

Official answer


Sprycel (dasatinib) is an oral anticancer targeted therapy classified as a BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) and is used to treat certain types of blood or bone marrow cancer. It is used in adults and children to treat Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML) or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL) in various phases.

Sprycel is given as an oral tablet taken by mouth. You do not receive this medicine as an injection. For some patients, Sprycel may be used in addition to chemotherapy.

The Philadelphia chromosome is a defective string of DNA that promotes the production of leukemia cells. Leukemia most often refers to cancer of the white blood cells, which are needed to help the immune system fight off disease and infection. Leukemia is either acute (occurs quickly) or chronic (occurs over a longer period). Leukemia is not thought to be an inherited disease through families, but some forms may be diagnosed in close family members.

Specifically, Sprycel is approved by the FDA to treat:

  • adults with newly diagnosed Philadelphia chromosome–positive (Ph+) chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in chronic phase
  • adults with Ph+ CML who no longer benefit from, or did not tolerate, other treatment, including imatinib mesylate (Gleevec)
  • adults with Ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL) who no longer benefit from, or did not tolerate, other treatments
  • children 1 year of age and older with Ph+ CML in chronic phase
  • children 1 year of age and older with newly diagnosed Ph+ ALL in combination with chemotherapy

Which drugs are like Sprycel?

A list of BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitors includes:

  • imatinib (Gleevec): first approved in 2001; used to treat ALL, CML, myelodysplastic diseases, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberan (a rare type of skin cancer), cutaneous mastocytosis, gastrointestinal stromal tumor.
  • dasatinib (Sprycel): first approved in 2006; used to treat Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML) or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL).
  • nilotinib (Tasigna): first approved in 2007; used to treat Ph+ CML or ALL
  • bosutinib (Bosulif) - first approved in 2012; used to treat Ph+ CML
  • ponatinib (Iclusig) - first approved in 2012; used to treat CML, Ph+ ALL

What are the most common side effects with Sprycel?

The most common side effects of Sprycel in adults and children receiving the medication as a single-agent therapy (occurring in at least 15% of patients) include:

  • low blood cell counts (bone marrow suppression) - can also be a serious side effect
  • fluid retention, swelling - can also be a serious side effect
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • skin rash
  • hemorrhage (bleeding, blood loss) - can also be a serious side effect
  • shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • muscle and bone pain

Sprycel may also cause other serious side effects, such as:

  • heart problems
  • pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • severe skin reactions
  • tumor lysis syndrome

Important: See other side common and serious side effects related to Sprycel therapy. Talk to your doctor about these side effects, how to recognize them, and when to report them to a healthcare provider.

Does Sprycel cause hair loss (alopecia)?

Sprycel has been reported to cause hair loss (alopecia) in 1% to less than 10% of patients but is not listed as a common side effect. The manufacturer reported hair loss based on data gathered from 2,809 participants in pooled studies evaluating Sprycel use in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and adults in Ph+ ALL.

Sprycel may also rarely lead to changes in hair color (depigmentation). One case report in a 56 year old woman described depigmentation that began 2 months after Sprycel therapy was started for CML. Depigmentation worsened over 12 months, and was reversible 2 to 3 months after treatment was stopped. Hair loss was not specifically noted. Skin depigmentation on the face and trunk was also reported.

This is not all the information you need to know about Sprycel (dasatinib) for safe and effective use. Review the full Sprycel information here, and discuss this information and any questions you have with your doctor or other health care provider.

  • Sprycel (dasatinib) [product information]. Bristol Myers Squibb. Princeton, NJ. Updated 12/2018. Accessed Feb. 12, 2021 at
  • Fujimi A, Ibata S, Kanisawa T, et al. Reversible skin and hair depigmentation during chemotherapy with dasatinib for chronic myeloid leukemia. Letter to the Editor. J Dermatol. 2016 Jan;43(1):106-7. doi:10.1111/1346-8138.13150. Epub 2015 Oct 5. PMID: 26434556.
  • Leukemia. Harvard Health. Accessed Feb 14, 2021 at

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