Alimta is a folate antimetabolites chemotherapy drug (chemically similar to folic acid) that is used in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer. Alimta was developed by Edward Taylor, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Princeton University.
Alimta works by inhibiting cell growth with the goal of preventing tumor metastasis, which is the spreading of the cancer to other parts of the body. Alimta inhibits three enzymes (thymidylate synthase, dihydrofolate reductase and glycinamide ribonucleotide formyl transferase) that are used in the synthesis of purine and pyrimidine, necessary for the formation of DNA and RNA. By preventing the formation of DNA and RNA, Alimta is able to inhibit cell growth, ideally stopping tumor metastasis. Alimta was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004, following 11 years of clinical trials.
Alimta is administered intravenously once every three weeks for a ten-minute period. Compared with other chemotherapy drugs, Alimta has a delivery method that is much more convenient. Before beginning treatment with Alimta, a number of preparatory steps must be taken:
As a single agent, Alimta is indicated for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (following prior chemotherapy treatments).
A number of side effects are associated with Alimta as a single agent. These side effects fall into two distinct categories:
When used in combination with platinum-based cisplatin, Alimta is the only FDA approved drug used for the specific treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma.
The combination of Alimta and cisplatin can produce a wide variety of adverse side effects, some of which include:
Clinical trials comprise four phases:
Alimta's clinical trials results suggest that Alimta, when used in combination with cisplatin, improves the median survival rate for patients suffering from malignant pleural effusion. Patients who were treated with Alimta and cisplatin survived about three months longer than patients treated only with cisplatin.
Although a survival rate improvement of three months might not seem like much, it is definitely a step in the right direction.
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