A Phase III, randomized trial showed that maintenance therapy with the chemotherapy drug pemetrexed (Alimta?, Eli Lilly and Company) improves progression-free survival (PFS) in patients with advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer who also received pemetrexed as part of their initial chemotherapy regimen.

The data was prersented during the 47th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology(ASCO) in Chicago.

It is the first large trial to demonstrate that using longer-term maintenance therapy with one of the same drugs included in initial treatment (termed ?continuation maintenance?) can increase progression-free survival in advanced non-small cell lung cancer, an extremely difficult disease to treat. The study provides physicians with a new treatment option after first-line therapy with pemetrexed.

?Cisplatin-pemetrexed therapy is an effective induction therapy for advanced disease. But after the fourth course, we typically stop treatment, and eventually need to go to a second-line therapy when the disease progresses again,? said lead author Luis Paz-Ares, MD, PhD, chair of oncology at Seville University Hospital in Seville, Spain. ?This cancer doesn?t have many treatment options, and we don?t want to fire all of our treatment bullets at once. These results suggest that patients can still continue to benefit from the use of the same drug rather than ?use up? an alternative early in the course of treatment. This could change the standard of care for these patients, at least in terms of maintenance treatment.?In the study 939 patients were given the standard four courses of first-line induction treatment with pemetrexed and cisplatin to attempt to induce disease remission. Of those, 539 patients whose cancer did not progress were randomized to maintenance pemetrexed and best supportive care (359) or placebo and best supportive care (180) until disease progression. Best supportive care entails non-anti-cancer therapy, including treatment to reduce pain and infections, for example, and stimulate appetite.

The investigators found that pemetrexed maintenance resulted in a 38 percent reduction in the risk of disease progression. The median PFS was 4.1 months for those in the pemetrexed group compared to 2.8 months in the placebo group. The disease control rate (percent of patients with responses or stable disease) was 71.8% in the pemetrexed arm compared to 59.6% on placebo.

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The toxicity profile of maintenance therapy was very favorable and in accordance with previous single agent pemetrexed.

Maintenance therapy isn?t mandatory for every patient, Paz-Ares noted. ?Some may have significant toxicity during induction treatment, and it may be worth having a treatment break. On the other hand, a patient who is having a good response in the absence of significant toxicity may be a good candidate for maintenance therapy. A lot of factors go into the treatment decision, and each patient should be informed.?

For more information:
Study Authors: Paz-Ares LG, De Marinis F, Dediu M, Thomas M, Pujol JL, et al.
Abstract title: PARAMOUNT: Phase III study of maintenance pemetrexed (pem) plus best supportive care (BSC) versus placebo plus BSC immediately following induction treatment with pem plus cisplatin for advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Sunday, June 5, 2011, 9:30 AM-12:30 PM CDT
Abstract: #CRA7510

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