FDA Approves Alimta for Treatment of Lung Cancer ~ The Truth About Mesothelioma

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FDA Approves Alimta for Treatment of Lung Cancer

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that the drug Alimta® (also known as pemetrexed) has been approved for preventing the progression of certain types of advanced or metastatic lung cancer, or nonsquamous, non-small cell lung cancer. Alimta® is newly-approved for lung cancer patients who have tumors that have been shrunken, or whose cancer has stabilized after treatments of chemotherapy.

Alimta® was originally approved by the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is linked almost exclusively to exposure to asbestos. Asbestos fibers, once inhaled, become permanently embedded and are impossible to remove. Asbestos inhalation is linked to mesothelioma, COPD, asbestosis, and lung cancer.

Alimta® works by limiting the ability of tumors to absorb the B-vitamin folate, which the tumor needs to survive. Alimta® is also approved for use as an initial therapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer. The FDA warns that the drug does have some possible side effects, which include blood cell damage, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, extremity numbness, and rashes. The drug is manufactured by the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. Subtypes of NSCLC include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Other treatment options include chemotherapy. Alimta® is the first drug to be approved as maintenance therapy for advanced NSCLC.

A number of leading oncologists, including Dr. David Sugarbaker of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts, often administer a combination of Alimta® and a second cancer-fighting drug know as Cisplatin when treating patients with mesothelioma.

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