Alimta®—also known as pemetrexed—is the very first mesothelioma chemotherapy drug to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma cancer. Alimta® is administered to mesothelioma patients who are unable to undergo mesothelioma surgery to remove cancerous tissue. Classified as an anti-metabolite, Alimta® inhibits cells from utilizing folate to make DNA and RNA—two substances needed by cancer cells in order to produce new cells—in an effort to help stop the growth of cancer cells.
Developed in 2000, Alimta® has been hailed as a "huge breakthrough" in treating mesothelioma cancer patients. In clinical trials at Britain's Newcastle Freeman Hospital, Alimta® was administered to 27 British mesothelioma sufferers, most of whom were former construction workers. The use of Alimta® resulted in a rapid improvement of their symptoms. Professor Hilary Calvert, the trial’s leader, stated that half of the patients experienced a decrease in tumor size and that most of the patients had marked improvement in their symptoms. Professor Calvert referred to the trial's findings as "the best results I've seen in my career."
Alimta® is most generally administered along with Cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug. Together, these two drugs have been known to extend the life of asbestos cancer patients by several months, and are beneficial in controlling mesothelioma symptoms, such as discomfort and breathing difficulties.
Alimta® treatment occurs over a 21-day period. On the first day of treatment, Alimta® is administered intravenously, which takes about fifteen minutes. Cisplatin is infused following the first dose of Alimta® but is not administered again until the 22nd day of treatment. Side effects associated with Alimta® include fatigue, anemia, fever, upset stomach, and mouth sores, but certain antibiotics can control these unpleasant effects of the chemotherapy treatment.
As with any mesothelioma treatment method, your doctor must determine whether or not you are a good candidate for Alimta® treatment.
Author: Linda Molinari
Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer AllianceRead about Linda
Reviewer: Annette Charlevois
Patient Support CoordinatorRead about Annette