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Drug Name: Pemetrexed
Brand Name:  Alimta by Eli Lilly
FDA Approval: 2004 (2008 approval for used with cisplatin)

Intended Use: Pemetrexed is an intravenous chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma and nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).   Pemetrexed is used in combination with cisplatin, another chemotherapy drug.

Treatment:  Pemetrexed inhibits the enzyme action that is required for cancer cells to reproduce and spread.  Pemetrexed is used for the initial treatment of NSCLC, and with malignant mesothelioma when surgery is not possible.  Both of these uses require the combination of the drug cisplatin.  If a second chemotherapy treatment is needed, pemetrexed is used alone.

The infusion of pemetrexed is administered once every 21 days.  The treatment is given on the first day of the cycle and takes about 10 minutes to complete.  The patient then does not receive any further treatments until the next three week period.  “Rest days” are the time in between treatments and is a standard part of chemotherapy treatment.

The dosage for pemetrexed is determined by your height, weight, health condition and type of cancer or condition for which you are being treated.  In addition to the chemotherapy drug, additional medications are included.  Typically the doctor will include vitamin B12, folic acids, and corticosteroids.

Side effects could include low white or red blood cell counts, low platelet count, fatigue, and gastrointestinal upset, rash, and/or hair loss.  These will be monitored by your medical team.

Success Story:   Researchers Homer Pearce, Ph.D., Chuan (Joe) Shih, Ph.D.,and Edward C. Taylor, Ph.D., were named Heroes of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society (ACS) for the development of pemetrexed (Alimta).  Pemetrexed was the first drug approved for treatment of malignant mesothelioma.  The three were recognized for improving lives through invention.

The Heroes of Chemistry Award was initiated by ACS in 1996 to highlight “the vital work of industrial chemical scientists and their companies in improving human welfare through successful commercial breakthroughs and products.”

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