Chemotherapy for mesothelioma

Your doctor may offer you chemotherapy to help slow the growth of mesothelioma and control symptoms.

About chemotherapy for mesothelioma

Your doctor may offer you chemotherapy to help slow the growth of mesothelioma and control symptoms.

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Cytotoxic means toxic to cells. These drugs disrupt the way cancer cells grow and divide but they also affect normal cells. You and your doctor can discuss if chemotherapy is suitable for you.

How chemotherapy is given

Chemotherapy drugs for mesothelioma are usually given by injection into a vein (intravenously).

Chemotherapy is usually given as a session of treatment. Each session of treatment may last between 1 and a few days. This is followed by a rest period of a few weeks. The treatment and the rest period make up a cycle of treatment. The number of cycles you have will depend on the stage of the cancer and how well it is responding to treatment.

The most commonly used drugs to treat mesothelioma are pemetrexed (Alimta®) together with cisplatin (or sometimes carboplatin). You usually have these drugs as an outpatient on the same day. You will then have a rest period with no chemotherapy for 20 days before starting your next cycle of treatment. If you have pemetrexed, you will be given vitamin B12, folic acid and steroids. These help to reduce the side effects of the treatment.

Other chemotherapy drugs may sometimes be used. These may be given as part of a clinical trial.

Side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can cause side effects. These can often be managed with drugs and usually improve after treatment has finished. Different drugs cause different side effects. Your cancer doctor or nurse will explain what to expect based on the treatment you will have.