Mesothelioma Treatments

Mesothelioma Drugs

The goal of chemotherapy is to use toxic chemicals to kill harmful cancer cells. In most situations, chemotherapy drugs are designed to locate and target cells that are dividing and growing rapidly, then interfere with those processes. Chemotherapy is most often done after surgery in an attempt to eradicate any remaining cancer cells. In some cases, however, it may be done prior to surgery to reduce the size of the tumor.

Available Chemotherapy Drugs for Mesothelioma

There are a number of options available to treat mesothelioma through chemotherapy. Each is chemically different and is structured in a specific way. With over 100 chemotherapy drugs on the market, only a few are considered to be useful against mesothelioma. This means the list of options is likely to be relatively short. Common options include alimta, cisplatin, carboplatin, onconase, gemcitabine, and nayelbine. Alimta is the only drug that is currently FDA-approved for mesothelioma, though many doctors have found success employing the others listed here.

The preferred drug combination for mesothelioma is generally pemetrexed/alimta in combination with cisplatin. When this combination is administered, folic acid and B12 must also be administered, as the pemetrexed interferes with the metabolism of these substances. Other common combinations include cisplatin with gemcitabine, cisplatin with carboplatin (which has the side effect of substantial nausea and vomiting), methotrexate and vincristine, cisplatin with vinlastine and mitomycin, cisplatin and doxorubicin, and a three-way combo of doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and cisplatin. Some patients may experience difficulty handling two drugs at once. In these cases, a single drug can be used.

Side Effects of Mesothelioma Chemotherapy Drugs

When chemotherapy drugs are used to attack cancerous cells, other healthy cells invariably become involved. Because chemotherapy drugs are designed to target areas of the body where cells reproduce rapidly, other areas that share this trait are also affected. Other parts of the body where cells tend to divide rapidly, for example, include hair and the immune system (which is why people undergoing chemotherapy often lose their hair and have compromised immune systems). Chemotherapy may also cause nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and exhaustion.

Additionally, chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, which is responsible for producing blood cells. Patients who are undergoing chemotherapy may experience low blood cell counts. This can make patients bruise or bleed easily or be at a high risk for infection.

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