Alimta Treatment - Mesothelioma Alimta Chemotherapy
Alimta is the brand name for pemetrexed, a chemotherapy drug that is currently being tested for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Chemically similar to folic acid, Alimta is a folate antimetabolite drug that was developed by Edward Taylor, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Princeton University. Following 11 years of preliminary clinical trials, Alimta was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004.
Alimta fights cancer by inhibiting cellular growth, thereby preventing tumors from growing and spreading throughout the body (tumor metastasis). Three enzymes used in the synthesis of DNA and RNA (glycinamide ribonucleotide formyl transferase, thymidylate synthase and dihydrofolate reductase) are inhibited by Alimta, stopping cell growth and with it, tumor metastasis.
Compared with other chemotherapy drugs, Alimta has a much more convenient method of delivery. The folate antimetabolite drug is administered intravenously over a 10-minute period, once every three weeks (compared to the multiple daily treatments required by many other chemotherapy drugs).
In preparation for Alimta chemotherapy treatment, a patient must first receive a vitamin B12 shot and take oral steroids and folic acid pills, as follows:
- Folic acid pills are taken every day, beginning five to seven days prior to first Alimta treatment and continuing for 21 days after completion of the third week of Alimta treatment.
- The vitamin B12 shot is administered by a doctor (every nine months).
- The oral steroid (dexamethasone) is taken twice a day on the day preceding and the day following Alimta treatment. Oral steroids help patients avoid side effects.
Alimta - Combination Chemotherapy
Used in conjunction with platinum-based cisplatin (a more traditional chemotherapy drug), Alimta is the only chemotherapy drug approved by the FDA for the specific treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. A number of clinical trials involving a combination of Alimta and cisplatin / cisplatin derivatives (carboplatin and oxaliplatin) are ongoing.
Use of the two chemotherapy agents can produce a number of adverse side effects including:
- Mouth sores
- Low blood count
[Page updated August 2009]