FDA Approves Pemetrexed (Alimta®) for Treatment of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
WASHINGTON, DC -- August 27, 2004 -- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pemetrexed (Alimta®) this month for the treatment of patients with advanced or spreading non-small cell lung cancer who have had prior chemotherapy. The combination of Alimta® plus a common chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, was also approved recently to treat patients with pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Researchers believe that Alimta® may also have value as chemotherapy for breast and colorectal cancers (Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2004 Aug;4(4):511-22).
Administered by injection, Alimta® reduces tumor size and works by blocking three enzymes necessary for cancer cell growth. Taking B vitamins and folic acid helps patients counteract the side effects of the drug such as fatigue and vomiting. An oral steroid medication, dexamethasone, may minimize skin rashes from Alimta® (Alimta® for Injection, Prescribing Instructions).
Alimta® Has Less Severe Side Effects Than Docetaxel
The FDA's decision to approve Alimta® for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer was prompted by a study comparing Alimta® with docetaxel, a standard therapy for lung cancer (J Clin Oncol. 2004 May 1;22(9):1589-97). Among 571 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, those taking Alimta® had a median survival time of 8.3 months, while those taking docetaxel had a median survival time of 7.9 months. This difference was not considered statistically significant. More important, however, was that patients who took Alimta® had fewer instances of neutropenia (lowered count of disease-fighting white blood cells) and diarrhea, less hair loss, and fewer hospitalizations. Patients taking either medication experienced some anemia and fatigue. These are common reactions to chemotherapy.
Lung Cancer Is the Leading Cause of Cancer Death in the United States
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The government estimates that there will be close to 174,000 new cases and about 160,440 deaths from lung cancer in 2004 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review: American Cancer Society, Statistics for 2004). Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for about 80% of lung cancers. The tumor cells produced in non-small cell lung cancer are large compared to those produced in small cell cancer, which are oval and spread rapidly. Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for about 20% of lung cancer cases.
The leading cause of lung cancer is smoking. Asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer. Taken together, smoking and asbestos exposure greatly increase the risk of developing the disease. Exposure to beryllium has also been implicated in lung cancer deaths.
Brayton Purcell is concerned about lung cancer and other serious health problems. We have extensive experience in handling cases involving exposure to asbestos, beryllium, and other toxic substances. For over 24 years, our asbestos attorneys have represented injured individuals and their families in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits for asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. Contact us to learn about your legal options.