Pemetrexed in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Clinical Cancer Research 11, no. 3 (2005): 982-992. [Link]

Maitreyee Hazarika, Robert M. White, Jr., Brian P. Booth, Yong-Cheng Wang, Doo Y. Lee Ham, Cheng Yi Liang, Atiqur Rahman, Jogarao V.S. Gobburu, Ning Li, Rajeshwari Sridhara, David E. Morse, Richard Lostritto, Patricia Garvey, John R. Johnson and Richard Pazdur

Division of Oncology Drug Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Maryland


Purpose: This report describes the data and analysis leading to the approval of pemetrexed (LY 231514, MTA, Alimta, Eli Lilly and Co., Indianapolis, IN) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of a New Drug Application for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).

Experimental Design: The FDA review of the efficacy and safety of pemetrexed assessed in a randomized clinical trial of 448 patients with unresectable MPM comparing pemetrexed plus cisplatin with cisplatin alone, as well as preclinical pharmacology and chemistry data, are described. The basis for marketing approval is discussed.

Results: In one randomized, single-blind, multicenter international trial, 226 patients were randomized to the pemetrexed and cisplatin arm and 222 patients were randomized to cisplatin alone. Median survival times were 12.1 months for pemetrexed and cisplatin and 9.3 months for cisplatin (P = 0.021; hazard ratio, 0.766; 95% confidence interval, 0.61-0.96). Myelosuppression, predominantly neutropenia, was the most common toxicity of pemetrexed plus cisplatin. Other common adverse events were fatigue, leucopenia, nausea, dyspnea, vomiting, chest pain, anemia, thrombocytopenia, and anorexia.

Conclusions: Pemetrexed in combination with cisplatin was approved by the FDA on February 4, 2004 for the treatment of patients with MPM whose disease is either unresectable or who are otherwise not candidates for curative surgery. The recommended dose of pemetrexed is 500 mg/m2 intra venous infusion over 10 minutes on day 1 of each 21-day cycle in combination with 75 mg/m2 cisplatin infused over 2 hours beginning 30 minutes after the pemetrexed infusion. Patients must receive oral folic acid and vitamin B12 injections before the start and during therapy to reduce severe toxicities. Patients should also receive corticosteroids with the chemotherapy to decrease the incidence of skin rash. Approval was based on a demonstration of survival improvement in a single randomized trial. Response rates and time to tumor progression were not included in product labeling because of inconsistencies in assessments among the investigators, independent radiologic reviewers, and the FDA, reflecting the difficulty of radiographic assessments in malignant mesothelioma. Complete prescribing information is available on the FDA Web site at