Mesothelioma Chemotherapy-What is the Role of Cisplatin?

Mesothelioma chemotherapy is one of the major conventional ways of treating mesothelioma and one of the commonly used chemotherapy agents is Cisplatin.

Cisplatin is a chemotherapy medication that contains platinum. This element is used to treat several forms of asbestos cancer, including mesothelioma.Most often, Cisplatin is used in combination with other chemotherapy agents to increase its effectiveness.

Cisplatin has been on the market for some time, though it was generally found to be ineffective in treating mesothelioma, but when used in combination with the new chemotherapy drug Alimta, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005, Cisplatin has proven to be an effective medication. The Alimta and Cisplatin combination is now considered to be one of the most effective chemotherapy treatments for pleural mesothelioma patients that are suitable for surgery.

Because the drug was introduced approximately 30 years ago and was the first in its class of alkylating agents, it often causes more side effects than newer chemotherapy drugs. Because of this, doctors will have tried other chemotherapeutic drugs before recommending treatment with Cisplatin.

If you are placed on Cisplatin you should discuss any potential concerns with your doctor. Make sure to review statistics on the effectiveness of Cisplatin and Alimta, the administration of the drug combination, and the side effects that patients encounter with treatment. It is imperative to take a B12 supplement orally starting a week before treatment begins, as well as weekly B12 shots throughout treatment. Patients should also take folic acid supplements daily (by mouth), which will continue for 21 days after the last dosage cycle of Cisplatin and Alimta.

Most times oral steroids are also prescribed along with this drug to help minimize side effects such as skin rash. If you are on other medications, either prescriptions or non-prescriptions such as supplements, you must inform their physician to avoid potential serious drug interactions.

Cisplatin in combination with Alimta is given to mesothelioma patients every 21 days on an outpatient basis, usually at a hospital or cancer treatment center. The treatment consists of a dose of Alimta by IV (which typically lasts about 10 to 15 minutes), followed by Cisplatin (which takes approximately two hours to administer). The number of cycles required will depend on the patient's response to medications, as well as any side effects experienced.

Side Effects

Side effects of Cisplatin and Alimta are usually mild to moderate for most patients with pleural mesothelioma, and include:
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Fatigue
• Thinned or brittle hair
• Loss of appetite or weight
• Diarrhea
• Changes in taste
• Numbness or tingling in the fingertips and toes
• Kidney toxicity
• Low white blood cells (neutropenia)
• Low red blood cells (anemia)
Patients experiencing any of the following symptoms should immediately call their doctor:
• Unusual bruising or bleeding
• Black stools
• Fever
• Chills
• Dizziness
• Diarrhea
• Shortness of breath or wheezing
• Swelling of the feet or ankles
• Seizures
• Rash
You may sometimes experience extreme side effects, which should be reported to your doctor immediately. Cisplatin can also cause severe kidney damage so it is important to take plenty of fluids during treatment with this chemotherapy agent


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