Alimta, also known the generic name pemetrexed, has been one of the most exciting developments in treatment of mesothelioma in recent years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a combination of Alimta and Cisplatin for treatment of mesothelioma. Alimta is the first and so far only medicine sanctioned by the FDA specifically to treat mesothelioma. Cisplatin, the other half of the combination therapy, is an older platinum-based chemotherapy agent used for many types of cancer.
Alimta is called a third-generation antifolate. Oother antifolate drugs are used to treat cancer and malaria. Alimta inhibits several enzymes in the folic acid metabolic pathway. It is thought that the drug inhibits key enzymes involved in the synthesis of purines and pyrimidines. An earlier-generation antifolate, methotrexate, was used for mesothelioma in the past. Clinical studies show a 14% single-agent response rate for Alimta. In combination with cisplatin, the response rate was 40%.
The combination of Alimta (pemetrexed) and cisplatin is now the accepted as the standard first-line chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma in patients that are inoperable. When surgery is done to debulk the tumor, this combination is often administered in follow-on.
Alimta is not a cure for mesothelioma, but clinical trials have shown it is associated with an increased survival for mesothelioma patients. Scientifically, an antifolate antineoplastic agent that disrupts folate-dependent metabolic processes. To lower the chance of side effects with Alimta, patients are given folic acid (vitamin B9) and vitamin B12 before, during, and after treatment.
Alimta is made by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and the name Alimta is a trademark of that company.
MesotheliomaWeb has been following the Alimta story for years.