Study shows somewhat good news about new mesothelioma drug pemetrexed
Researchers who conducted the largest phase 3 trial to date for mesothelioma have reported results showing that patients on a new chemotherapy drug regimen live longer and have less pain than those on an older drug. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando, Florida on May 20, 2002.
Pemetrexed is a new antifolate, a class of drugs that targets the folic acid metabolic pathway, which affects certain B complex vitamins. The results of the trial show that tumors shrank in 41% of patients on pemetrexed in combination with the commonly used chemotherapy drug cisplatin. Only 17% of patients receiving cisplatin alone experienced tumor shrinkage. Furthermore, the pemetrexed–cisplatin combination extended the lives of patients nearly three months, compared with those on cisplatin alone.
According to Dr. Nicholas J. Vogelzang, lead author of the study, “This is the largest clinical trial ever conducted in this disease, and the 25 to 30% improvement in survival for patients on the combination therapy is the first time anyone has documented a significant improvement in patients treated for mesothelioma.”
In 75% of cases, pleural mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, and the disease has no approved or very effective chemotherapy. Researchers theorize that pemetrexed might prove effective by targeting key enzymes that are believed to play a role in the rapid growth of mesothelioma tumors.