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Photosensitivity, associated with multikinase inhibitor treatment

Definition: photosensitivity involves increased sensitivity of the skin to light.

Incidence: Photosensitivity is reported with some multikinase inhibitors, including vandetanib and imatinib, occurring at an incidence of 4% to 13%.1-4

Grading and lesion characteristics: According to the CTCAEv5.05, photosensitivity is defined as, A disorder characterised by an increase in sensitivity of the skin to light".

Table 10: Grading of Photosensitivity According to the CTCAEv5.0




Painless erythema covering <10% BSA


Tender erythema covering 10 - 30% BSA


Erythema covering >30% BSA and erythema with blistering; photosensitivity; oral corticosteroid therapy indicated; pain control indicated (e.g., narcotics or NSAIDs)


Life-threatening consequences; urgent intervention indicated

Onset: Within 24 hours of sun exposure.

Resolution: Photosensitivity reactions of multi-kinase inhibitors, especially vandetanib, resolve rapidly (within 1 week) upon treatment discontinuation.6 See also Prophylaxis and treatment - reactive management – Photosensitivity and papilloma and squamous cell carcinoma pages.

Related Links 


  1. European Medicines Agency. Caprelsa (vandetanib) Summary of Product Characteristics 2019.
  2. Food and Drug Administration. Caprelsa (vandetanib) Prescribing Information 2018.
  3. European Medicines Agency. Glivec (imatinib) Summary of Product Characteristics 2019.
  4. Food and Drug Administration. Gleevec (imatinib) Prescribing Information 2018.
  5. National Cancer Institute Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program. Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events and Common Toxicity Criteria [v5.0]. 27 November 2017. (Accessed 15 April 2019).
  6. Giacchero D, et al. Arch Dermatol. 2012;148:1418–1420.

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