Gemcitabine Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma

Gemcitabine is a chemotherapy drug for cancers such as mesothelioma, a cancer that most often arises from exposure to asbestos. Gemcitabine has been shown to provide survival benefits to patients with both peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma. Researchers have studied this medication with the hopes of it becoming a mainstay for treatment of mesothelioma.

What are the Benefits?

Many benefits of this treatment have been studied such as:

  • Higher survival rate
  • Good for patients who have not responded to other chemotherapy
  • Many clinical trials available

How Does This Drug Help?

This drug can help you under a variety of circumstances. The FDA first approved it as an antimetabolite chemotherapy drug back in 1996. Outside of its use for mesothelioma, gemcitabine has been studied in the setting of breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. 

Gemcitabine has sometimes been seen as a second line of defense in chemotherapeutic treatment after patients have finished the first-line treatment. If the first-line treatment has been deemed as ineffective, gemcitabine can offer an option as second-line treatment. 

How Do Doctors Administer This Treatment?

Under most circumstances, doctors administer gemcitabine treatment on an outpatient basis. Doctors will prescribe the drug intravenously, which means that they introduce it through the veins of the patient’s body. Normally, going through treatment means that you will visit the doctor’s office or infusion clinic at regular intervals. A typical infusion for gemcitabine is around 30 minutes. Normally, your doctor will give you this treatment once a week for up to three weeks at a time, followed by one week off–this is referred to as a cycle. Your specialist will determine the best way to give you treatment. This can be considered as first-line treatment in specific cases, but it has more often been used as a second-line of treatment. Doctors will monitor the patient’s response as each patient, and each cancer, is unique. In some cases, patient’s have an inadequate response to cisplatin, so gemcitabine is often substituted instead. 

The Side Effects

It is important to be aware of some of the side effects that can arise from gemcitabine. People who have impaired kidney or liver function are often advised against using this form of treatment because of how it can further damage your kidneys and liver. 

Before making any changes to your current regimen, you should first speak with your doctor about what will work for you and what won’t when considering your treatment plan.

Eating healthier is almost universally recommended and your doctor’s office may have a nutritionist or have the ability to recommend one to you.