Gemcitabine, one of the newer chemotherapy agents that have come on-line in recent years, is most commonly used to treat cancers of the lung and pancreas as well as mesothelioma. Gemcitabine prevents cancer cells from making DNA and RNA by interfering with the synthesis of nucleic acids, which stops or slows cell growth.
Marketed under the brand name Gemzar, Gemcitabine belongs to a group of medicines called antimetabolites. Most often used in combination with one or more other chemotherapy agents such as Cisplatin, it is given intravenously. Recent studies also show promising results from combining Gemcitabine with inhibitors of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), increased levels of which are associated with mesothelioma.
Gemcitabine is only one of many newer chemotherapy agents that are being used to treat mesothelioma, and chemotherapy is only one of several mesothelioma treatments that your doctor may choose depending on the patient’s individual circumstances. Figuring out which options are best can be both confusing and stressful for the patient. Click here to speak to an experienced nurse today.
Because Gemcitabine sometimes also affects normal cells, it can cause side effects. These may include nausea, vomiting, damage to kidneys, fatigue, reduced production of red and white blood cells with a consequent increase in the risk of infections and internal bleeding, loss of appetite, changes in liver and kidney function, swelling, rashes, flu-like illness, diarrhea and hair thinning.
Kidney and liver changes are usually undetected by the patient but are closely watched by doctors during treatment. Medications are prescribed if rashes and diarrhea develop, and hair will grow back once the treatment is over.
Before starting Gemcitabine treatment, patients should discuss its effects on fertility and their ability to conceive after treatment; the drug may cause birth defects, so women should be careful to avoid getting pregnant when taking the medication. Also, vaccinations should not be taken during treatment, as they can compromise patients’ immune systems.
Choosing which chemotherapy regimen is right for you is a crucial decision that you will make with your doctors. If you are not sure how to find a qualified physician who understands the full range of options, the Mesothelioma Options Help Center can connect you with top-quality providers, provide information on your treatment options and advocate on your behalf.