Gemcitabine has a survival benefit for both peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma patients. Research is underway to determine its use as a main contender in treatment.
Benefits of Gemcitabine
Gemcitabine (brand name: Gemzar) is useful for treating patients with peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma. When combined with other chemotherapy drugs, gemcitabine may be beneficial for patients who don’t respond to systemic chemotherapy.
Gemcitabine has demonstrated significant survival time benefits in mesothelioma treatment. When combined with cisplatin, gemcitabine has shown median survival times of 20 months in some cases.
Not all mesothelioma patients respond to traditional chemotherapy applications. In these cases, it is necessary to find a second line of treatment—usually an alternative drug. Gemcitabine has demonstrated potentially promising survival outcomes as second-line treatment.
There are some clinical trials studying different applications of gemcitabine. The purpose of these trials is to improve chemotherapy treatment for advanced stage patients and challenge systemic treatment. Get connected to clinical trials today.
What is Gemcitabine?
Gemcitabine is an antimetabolite chemotherapy drug first approved by the FDA in 1996. Antimetabolites stop cells from manufacturing DNA and RNA, which are essential for cell growth. Aside from being used in the treatment of mesothelioma, it has also been used to treat pancreatic, ovarian, and breast cancer.
Mesothelioma is caused by genetic mutations to healthy cells from exposure to asbestos. This mutation causes an abnormal cell division, or cellular growth. Healthy cells submit to apoptosis, which is effectively described as cellular suicide, but mesothelioma cells grow out of control and form tumors instead of dying off.
Gemcitabine effectively disrupts the growth and spread of mesothelioma by attacking the genetic material in mesothelioma cells, killing the cancerous cells.
Gemcitabine also offers potential as a second line of chemotherapy for patients. Second-line treatment takes place after the initial round of treatment is ineffective or the patient relapses. Therefore, patients who didn’t respond well to their first line of treatment may benefit from a regimen of gemcitabine. Research shows the combination of navelbine, a semisynthetic chemotherapy drug, and gemcitabine has considerable potential as a second-line treatment.
Some other combinations of gemcitabine include:
Alimta and Gemcitabine
Currently, the standard first line of treatment for patients with mesothelioma is the combination of Alimta and platinum-based cisplatin. However, the Alimta/gemcitabine combination provides an option for patients who are responsive to platinum-based chemotherapy.
Gemcitabine and Cisplatin
A study conducted in the UK found that the combination of these chemotherapy drugs is a potentially viable option for treatment. Median survival times were 17.3 months, however, severe blood toxicity occurred in many patients.
Gemcitabine and Carboplatin
A study conducted in Italy found that patients receiving cycles of gemcitabine and carboplatin experienced a median survival time of 16.5 months.
Dosing and Side Effects
The actual size of the dosage depends on the patient’s blood cell counts and response to treatment. It is typically administered via an IV drip over a 30-minute period. If the patient is receiving chemotherapy in combination with another drug, the time to administer it may be substantially longer.
For example, a combination with cisplatin can take 1 to 4 additional hours to administer. Cisplatin takes particularly long to administer because it has to be given through an IV drip and the patient is also given a saline drip before and after this process. The number of cycles a patient receives depends on how well they are responding to the treatment.
In order to protect patients from the side effects of gemcitabine, their blood cell count is closely monitored as well as their general health. If any serious side effects occur, such as infection, doctors typically discontinue chemotherapy.
Gemcitabine is beneficial for certain types of patients, including advanced stage patients and patients who didn’t respond well to systemic treatment. However, only a mesothelioma specialist has the ability to determine whether gemcitabine is right for you. Contact our patient advocate team or use our interactive Doctor Map to find a mesothelioma specialist that fits your diagnosis.