Mesothelioma Chemotherapy-What is the Role of Alimta?

Mesothelioma is a notoriously difficult asbestos related cancer to treat. Most chemotherapy drugs that have been used to treat this type of asbestos cancer have not had appreciable success in the treatment of this deadly cancer.

Among recently approved medications, Alimta stands out as having the most promise in prolonging the life of mesothelioma patients, as well as improving their quality of life.

Alimta, also known as Pemetrexed is a newer chemotherapy medication that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005. Most times it used in combination with Cisplatin ,and Alimta is the first medication that is specifically approved for the treatment of mesothelioma and is considered to be the most effective chemotherapy treatment for pleural mesothelioma patients especially those that have advanced cancer that are not candidates for surgery.

Alimta is a multi-targeted anti-folate medication that works by blocking the enzymes required for DNA replication and cell division. During clinical trials, Alimta (used in tandem with Cisplatin) added an average of three months to the lives of malignant mesothelioma patients and also helped to reduce symptoms.

As with most cancer medications, it is imperative for patients to discuss the use of Alimta and Cisplatin with their doctor before beginning cancer treatment. An oncologist will provide facts about the effectiveness of Alimta, the administration of the medication, and the side effects patients encounter.

Cancer specialists doctors usually recommend the complimentary use of B12 supplements given intramuscularly{injection}and folic acid supplements given orally on a daily dosage (supplementation will continue for 21 days after the last dosage cycle of Alimta).

Patients are also placed on adjuvant oral steroids to help minimize side effects. Patients should inform their doctor of all other medications being taken to avoid dangerous interactions.

Alimta is given to mesothelioma patients every 21 days on an outpatient basis. Treatment consists of a 10-minute IV infusion, followed by two hours of Cisplatin. The number of cycles patients are required to receive will depend on their response to the medications and intensity of resulting side effects.

Side Effects

The side effects of Alimta are usually mild to moderate for most patients with pleural mesothelioma. Some patients may experience extreme side effects and a doctor should be informed immediately if a reaction becomes a serious problem. Side effects typically include:
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Fatigue
• Constipation
• Diarrhea
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
• Tiredness
• Weakness
• Pale skin
• Headache
• Dizziness
• Confusion
• Fast heartbeat
• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
• Changes in mood
• Depression
• Joint or muscle pain
• Low red blood cells count(anemia)
• Low white blood cells count(neutropenia)
• Low platelets count(thrombocytopenia)

Patients experiencing any of the following symptoms should immediately call their doctor:
• Diarrhea
• Sores in the mouth, throat, or on the lips
• Unusual bleeding or bruising
• Sore throat, fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection
• Chest pain
• Difficulty breathing or swallowing
• Slow or difficult speech
• Weakness or numbness of an arm or leg
• Pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
• Hives
• Rash
• Itching
• Decreased urination

Mesothelioma patients should avoid being near people who have colds, the flu, or other signs of illness because during chemotherapy the immune system is weakened by the chemo drugs thus making the patient very prone to “catching” infections.

Make sure to contact your doctor at once if you develop signs of an infection. Before you receive Alimta, tell your doctor if you are taking an NASAID, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, indometacin, ketoprofen, and others, these drugs tend to interact negatively with Alimta. Also before receiving Alimta, tell your doctor if you have kidney disease,liver disease,immune deficiency or the presence of excessive fluid in your lungs or in any organ in your body.


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