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Use of Medication Before Chemotherapy Prevents Serious Skin Rash

Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that afflicts people who have been exposed to asbestos. The condition is devastating, as the diagnosis often comes as a surprise decades after the exposure takes place, and the period of time between diagnosis of the disease and a patient’s death is generally less than two years. Though treatments are available, the condition is always considered to be fatal, and the treatments themselves can have uncomfortable side effects.

Among the side effects that are commonly experienced is a painful rash that can follow treatment with Pemetrexed. Pemetrexed is also known as Alimta, and it is the only chemotherapy drug that the Food and Drug Administration has approved for the treatment of mesothelioma, making it the first line of treatment both for this disease and for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. Unfortunately, 16 percent of patients who undergo this protocol develop an uncomfortable rash that causes itching and blistering. Though in most patients the rash is simply an irritation, it has been known to be fatal in some. Now a group of U.S. researchers collaborating on a clinical study into the use of dexmethasone have found a new way to offer patients protection from this side effect.

According to a report published in the Journal of Oncology Pharmacy Practice, it had previously been established that the powerful steroid could prevent the rash if administered in doses of two 4 mg pills per day on the day before chemotherapy, the day that the chemotherapy is administered and the day after. Though effective, this regimen is difficult for patients undergoing chemotherapy to remember and stick to, and missing even one dose can negate the steroid’s protective effects. The scientists investigated whether the medication could be dosed differently with the same effect, and administered a single 20 mg dose to patients involved in their study prior to the chemotherapy treatment. They found that of the 14 patients tested, none developed the rash.

According to the study’s lead author, oncologist/hematologist Raymond Elsoueidi of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare centers in Kentucky, “These findings suggest that a single dose of dexamethasone 20 mg may be an alternative premedication regimen in patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer receiving pemetrexed or pemetrexed-based chemotherapy.”

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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