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French Scientists Note New Alimta Side Effect for Mesothelioma Patients

Alimta is the brand name for the antifolate pemetrexed,which has been approved in combination with a cancer drug called cisplatin for the treatment of pleural mesothelioma. The combination of drugs is specifically used in those patients for who surgery is not an option, or for who a combination of the protocol along with surgery is recommended. Though cisplatin is an effective treatment by itself, studies have shown that when the two drugs are combined patients have shown a median survival that is approximately three times as long as that shown in patients only using cisplatin.

Though skin rash has long been known to be a potential side effect of the drug’s use, French researchers have discovered that a more severe skin ailment is also a possibility, and in a recent study they conclude that it is essential that this adverse effect “must be recognized.”

Writing in the French scientific journal Annales de Dermatologie et de Venereologie, scientists from the Perigueux Hospital in Periguex, France document the symptoms they found in two different mesothelioma patients who were being treated with the cisplatin/pemetrexed combination. Both patients experienced a highly specific problem in their lower extremities.

The patients were described as a 66-year old man and a 70-year old female. The female patient began showing symptoms immediately after her first course of the medication, and these symptoms worsened with her second course of treatment. Her symptoms were similar to those of the man, who experienced redness and swelling in both legs. The woman’s symptoms grew to be so painful that she had difficulty walking. In both cases, when the pemetrexed was discontinued their symptoms went away.

It is not unknown that pemetrexed can cause cutaneous toxicity when a patient’s folate status is depleted. For this reason, the FDA and the European Medicines agency recommend that patients are provided with folate and vitamin B12 supplementation prior to receiving pemetrexed, but that was apparently not true in the case of these two patients. The study indicates that, “This cutaneous adverse effect is unrecognized, resulting in delayed diagnosis.” The authors note that because the symptoms are similar to that of a bacterial skin infection, medical providers might not realize what they are seeing.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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