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What are the FDA Approved Drug Treatments for Malignant Mesothelioma?

Doctors and researchers are always looking for better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat mesothelioma. This means newer forms of treatment such as gene therapy, immunotherapy, targeted drugs, virus therapies, and photodynamic therapy are being heavily tested as treatments for mesothelioma. One of the most promising newer treatments is Sutent (sunitinib malate). Targeted drugs such as this work differently from standard chemo drugs and sometimes work when chemo drugs don’t. They often have different (and less severe) side effects, as well.

As of 2012, Sutent was active and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for advanced renal cell carcinoma (also called kidney cancer or renal adenocarcinoma), gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), and advanced pancreatic NET. Though Sutent is not yet approved for mesothelioma, several other drugs are. They include Alimta (Pemetrexed Disodium) and the combination Gemcitabine-Cisplatin (GC).

Alimta is approved for use alone or with other drugs to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma in patients who cannot be treated with surgery. It is also approved for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The drug is an anti-metabolite and works by preventing cells from making and repairing DNA so they can't grow and multiply. Alimta is typically administered every three weeks directly into the bloodstream, through an IV, or a central line.

The drug combination Gemcitabine-Cisplatin typically works better than single drugs because different drugs kill cancer in different ways. According to Cancer Research UK, GC works by destroying “quickly dividing cells.” The drug is administered directly into the bloodstream intravenously and as cycles of treatment. Each cycle takes three or four weeks with between four to six cycles of treatment taking three to six months.

GC is also approved for other difficult to treat cancers such as biliary cancer, bladder cancer, cervical cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to know that your treatment options are not limited. Talk to your doctor about all of your options, including FDA approved treatments such as Alimta and potentially life-saving newer therapies such as immunotherapy, targeted therapies (Sutent) and gene therapy.



American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Dec. 2017.

Cancer Research UK. Cancer Research UK, 02 July 2014. Web. 19 Dec. 2017.

National Cancer Institute. National Institutes of Health (NIH), 25 Oct. 2011. Web. 19 Dec. 2017.