Cardiovascular complications are included among the systemic effects of tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)-based therapeutic strategies. To test the hypothesis that inhibition of Kit tyrosine kinase that promotes cardiac progenitor cell (CPC) survival and function may be one of the triggering mechanisms of imatinib mesylate (IM)-related cardiovascular effects, the anatomical, structural and ultrastructural changes in the heart of IM-treated rats were evaluated. Cardiac anatomy in IM-exposed rats showed a dose-dependent, restrictive type of remodeling and depressed hemodynamic performance in the absence of remarkable myocardial fibrosis. The effects of IM on rat and human CPCs were also assessed. IM induced rat CPC depletion, reduced growth and increased cell death. Similar effects were observed in CPCs isolated from human hearts. These results extend the notion that cardiovascular side effects are driven by multiple actions of IM. The identification of cellular mechanisms responsible for cardiovascular complications due to TKIs will enable future strategies aimed at preserving concomitantly cardiac integrity and anti-tumor activity of advanced cancer treatment.
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