International Journal of Hematology

, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 156–162 | Cite as

Berbamine overcomes imatinib-induced neutropenia and permits cytogenetic responses in Chinese patients with chronic-phase chronic myeloid leukemia

  • Yanmin Zhao
  • Yamin Tan
  • Gongqiang Wu
  • Lizhen Liu
  • Yingjia Wang
  • Yi Luo
  • Jimin Shi
  • He Huang
Original Article


During imatinib therapy, many patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) develop severe neutropenia, leading to treatment interruptions, and potentially compromising response to imatinib. Berbamine (a bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloid) has been widely used in Asian countries for managing leukopenia associated with chemotherapy. To investigate whether berbamine shows clinical benefit in reversing imatinib-associated neutropenia, we analyzed 63 chronic-phase CML patients who had developed grade ≥2 neutropenia and were treated with (n = 34, berbamine group) or without (n = 29, control group) berbamine. Among those patients with grade 2 neutropenia, five of 13 (38.5%) progressed to grade 3 neutropenia without berbamine support, while in the berbamine group, the rate decreased to 3/20 (15%) (p = 0.213). Although the rate of recovery from grade ≥3 neutropenia was similar in the two groups (94.1 vs. 90.5%, p = 0.559), berbamine markedly shortened the recovery time (median, 11 vs. 24 days, p = 0.006), and prevented recurrence of grade ≥3 neutropenia (18.8 vs. 52.6%, p = 0.039). Moreover, with berbamine support, the time to achieve complete cytogenetic response was significantly shorter (median, 6.5 vs. 10 months, p = 0.007). There were no severe adverse events associated with berbamine treatment. In conclusion, the present study reveals the potential clinical value of berbamine in the treatment of CML with imatinib-induced neutropenia. The use of berbamine may improve response to imatinib by stimulating normal hematopoiesis and faster neutropenia recovery.


Berbamine Imatinib Neutropenia Chronic myeloid leukemia Cytogenetic response 



The work was funded by National Natural Science Funds (81000193).


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Copyright information

© The Japanese Society of Hematology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yanmin Zhao
    • 1
  • Yamin Tan
    • 1
  • Gongqiang Wu
    • 1
  • Lizhen Liu
    • 1
  • Yingjia Wang
    • 1
  • Yi Luo
    • 1
  • Jimin Shi
    • 1
  • He Huang
    • 1
  1. 1.Bone Marrow Transplant Center, The First Affiliated Hospital, School of MedicineZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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