The prevalence of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is expected to double in the next 15 years. The introduction of imatinib significantly changed the prognosis of CML, challenging the concept of a fatal disease. Nowdays, imatinib, nilotinib and dasatinib are registered for first-line treatment of CML patients in chronic phase (CP). Considering elderly patients, the most extensively studied TKI is imatinib, that induces a rate of cytogenetic and molecular responses comparable between the younger and the elderly patients. Once a CCgR with imatinib is achieved, the probability to be alive and disease free at 8 years is more than 80%. These results confirm that imatinib has to be considered the first-line treatment for the elderly and that the CCgR is the guide parameter for treatment modulation and the most solid marker of long term outcome. Nevertheless, older patients tolerate imatinib worse in comparison to the younger, and this causes a higher rate of therapy discontinuation and less adherence to chronic treatment. Thus, the toxic profile of each TKI is one of the most important factors driving the choice of the best drug. Another important factor is the potency of the TKI. Since nilotinib and dasatinib are more potent than imatinib in inducing cytogenetic and molecular responses, they could be preferred for increasing the proportion of patients who can achieve deeper molecular responses, allowing treatment discontinuation. This approach is intriguing, but it is still experimental. Another therapeutic strategy could be the identification of the minimal effective dose of TKI in order to maintain the CCgR, but also this approach is under clinical investigation.
Keywords: Adverse events, chronic myeloid leukemia, cytogenetic response, elderly, imatinib, quality of life.