Mesothelioma Treatments

Mesothelioma and Alimta

Mesothelioma is one of several diseases caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. As with all asbestos-related diseases, treatment of mesothelioma is most successful when the patient is diagnosed early. However, since the initial symptoms of mesothelioma are usually mild and ignored, it has been one of the most difficult forms of asbestos cancer to treat.

Alimta and Pemetrexed

Alimta, called Pemetrexed when used as an injection, is a new generation of chemotherapy medications. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Alimta for use in 2005 following 11 years of clinical trials. Often used in conjunction with Cisplatin, 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 that are not candidates for surgery.

Alimta works by blocking the enzymes required for DNA replication and cell division. When these enzymes are blocked, the cancerous cells are unable to grow and the cancer may shrink or even disappear. It also interferes with the ability of the cells to spread, preventing the costly metastasis that spreads cancer throughout the body.

During clinical trials, Alimta used with Cisplatin added an average of three months to the lives of mesothelioma patients and also helped to reduce symptoms. As with any cancer treatment, it is critical that patients discuss the use of Alimta and Cisplatin with their doctor before beginning treatment. Since the details of treatment can vary from person to person, a patient's oncologist will discuss the effectiveness of Alimta, how medication will be administered and the potential risks and side effects patients may encounter.

Part of the treatment plan with Alimta generally includes an initial period of taking daily B12 supplements by injection and folic acid supplements by mouth. Under typical circumstances, 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 depends on their response to the medications and intensity of resulting side effects.

Patients should inform their doctor of all other medications currently taken to avoid dangerous interactions. Although Alimta has been FDA approved for several years, studies are still ongoing for using Alimta in conjunction with radiation and in combination with other treatments.

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