Idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) and chronic eosinophilia leukemia (CEL) represent the most recent additions to the list of molecularly defined chronic myeloproliferative disorders. Beginning with the observation that imatinib mesylate (Gleevec) could elicit rapid and complete hematologic remissions in a proportion of patients with HES, a reverse bedside-to-bench translational research effort led to the discovery of FIP1L1-PDGFRA, a novel fusion gene on chromosome 4q12 whose product is an imatinib-sensitive protein tyrosine kinase. FIP1L1-PDGFRA is the first description of a gain-of-function fusion gene derived from an interstitial chromosomal deletion rather than a reciprocal translocation. Empiric use of imatinib in HES and CEL provides a dramatic example of how the development of targeted therapeutics can provide tremendous insight into the molecular etiology of what appear to be a diverse and otherwise indecipherable collection of diseases. In this review, we discuss the role of imatinib in HES/CEL and other malignancies characterized by constitutively activated tyrosine kinases, and examine molecular features of the FIP1L1-PDGFRA fusion.
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