Recent research has uncovered that use of the lower cost, chemotherapy drug, Gemzar or Gemcitabine in combination with a platinum based agent (cisplatin or carboplatin) may be equally as effective in treating asbestos related, pleural mesothelioma as the most used, more expensive chemotherapy treatment, Alimta (pemetrexed).

Experts in Turkey, which possesses the tragic title of being one of the countries with the highest incidences of mesothelioma, reviewed 116 mesothelioma sufferers, all of whom were treated with a combination of Alimta and a platinum drug between 2009 and 2012. During the same time period, 30 mesothelioma patients received the combination treatment consisting of Gemzar and one of the platinum drugs.

Importantly, the study ensured that there was no difference between the two groups in terms of age, gender, cancer stage, history of asbestos exposure and other features. The average age of the patients was just under 61 years and the majority were suffering with epithelioid mesothelioma.

The experts found no real differences between the mesothelioma survival rates of the groups. GuntuluAk of Eskisehir Osmangazi University in Turkey stated;

“After adjusting for the stage and Karnofsky performance (overall physical health) the chemotherapy schema.”

The findings were perhaps surprising in that both groups experienced similar results. It was found that in the majority of cases, mesothelioma began to increase in severity, 6 to 7 months post treatment and sadly most patients passed around one year following diagnosis.

In drawing their conclusion, the experts advised that although not necessarily better, Gemzar was a safe and effective alternative to Alimta when addressing the treatment of asbestos related mesothelioma.

This is not the only study to have reviewed the difference between the two treatments. A Mexican study covering the use of Gemzar to treat mesothelioma patients in its advanced stage highlighted some illuminating results. It was found that not only was Gemzar less expensive than Alimta but this treatment also produced fewer side effects. The experts also found that the use of Gemzar improved post-surgery survival slightly.

It is hoped that further, future and larger studies could shed further light on the best way to treat mesothelioma sufferers.

Source: Ak, G et al, “The effectiveness and safety of platinum based pemetrexed and platinum based gemcitabine treatment in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma”, 9th July 2015, BMC Cancer, Epub head of print.

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