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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Pemetrexed (Alimta®)


Brand Name: Alimta®

Pemetrexed is used in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Pemetrexed belongs to a class of drugs known as antifolates. This drug works by interfering with aspects of metabolism that involve folate, a vitamin that is naturally produced by the body. This interference can prevent the growth of cancer cells.

This medication comes as a solution that is injected into a vein (intravenous). Usually, injections are given once every 21 days. The exact time needed for each injection and the duration of treatment may vary according to several factors, including the type of cancer being treated, how well the medication is working, and how well your body is tolerating the medication. Your doctor will recommend the treatment approach that is best for you.

Your doctor will discuss other medications you can take to help decrease or prevent some of the side effects associated with pemetrexed. These medications may include a corticosteroid, a folic acid supplement, and vitamin B12.

Pemetrexed side effects

To prevent problematic interactions between pemetrexed and other drugs, be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, and what other medications and supplements you are currently taking. You should also inform your doctor if you have or ever had a liver tumor, liver or kidney disease, pleural effusion (excess fluid between the linings around the lungs), ascites (fluid in the abdomen), if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding. Pemetrexed should not be taken during breastfeeding.

Possible side effects may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression or other mood changes
  • Joint or muscle pain

Some of pemetrexed’s side effects can be serious. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth, throat or lip sores or redness
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Sore throat, fever, chills or other signs of infection
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slow or difficult speech
  • Pain, burning, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Hives, rash, itching
  • Decreased urination
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness or numbness of an arm or leg

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Patients may experience additional effects not mentioned above.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), your team of cancer experts will explain each of the side effects of pemetrexed with you in detail, as well as the side effects and expectations of all other medications planned as part of your individualized treatment plan.

Pemetrexed for cancer treatment

Pemetrexed is approved by the FDA for the following cancer treatments:

  • As a single agent for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer after previous chemotherapy
  • In combination with cisplatin for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (a type of cancer that affects the inside lining of the chest cavity) that cannot be surgically removed or for patients who are not candidates for surgery

At CTCA, our integrative approach to cancer treatment works to fight your disease on all fronts and ensures that you remain at the center of everything we do. We encourage participation from both you and your family to make certain you are comfortable with all decisions made regarding your treatment.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Cancer Treatment Centers of America assumes no responsibility for how this material is used. Please check with a physician if you suspect you are ill. Also note that while Cancer Treatment Centers of America frequently updates its contents, medical information changes rapidly. Therefore, some information may be out of date.