Chemotherapy Combination Found Effective in Treating Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma, a rare asbestos cancer that affects the soft tissues surrounding the lungs and lining the chest, is usually not diagnosed until it has reached its most advanced stages, and therefore is often inoperable. Even when surgery is not an option to remove the tumor, other traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can be administered in order to shrink the tumor and help stop or slow its progression through the body. They are also helpful in improving quality of life and duration of survival.
A recent clinical trial which concerned the effectiveness of a combination regimen of chemotherapy medications has shown promise for mesothelioma patients. The trial involved 450 patients with advanced malignant mesothelioma, who received either Alimta (pemetrexed) and cisplatin (Platinol), or cisplatin alone. In the patients who were treated with the Alimta/cisplatin combination, survival rates were increased an average of 21.1 months, or 30%. Those who received only cisplatin had an average survival of only 9.3 months. One-year survival rates for patients receiving the Alimta/cisplatin were 50.3%, compared to 38% of cisplatin patients. The patients treated with Alimta also received daily injections of B12, as well as folic acid supplements, in order to help reduce side effects. The possible side effects associated with Alimta, which is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company, include low levels of blood cells, nausea, vomiting, pain, diarrhea, fatigue and skin rash. Additionally, the patients receiving the combination chemotherapy reported increased lung function. Among the symptoms of mesothelioma are breathing difficulties, coughing, fatigue, inability to eat, difficult swallowing and chest pain. Malignant mesothelioma is found almost exclusively in individuals who have had a previous, usually occupational, exposure to asbestos. Asbestos, a mineral material which was widely used in the twentieth century as a component of insulation and construction materials, is a carcinogen. Although there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, the risk for mesothelioma increases with prolonged or repeated exposure to the substance. Following the clinical trial, the Food and Drug Administration approved Alimta in combination with cisplatin for patients with inoperable malignant mesothelioma.