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Gemcitabine: Mesothelioma Clinical Trials
Gemcitabine is a relatively new chemotherapy drug. It is used most commonly to treat cancer of the pancreas and Lung Cancer (including mesothelioma).
It is currently in clinical trials with many mesothelioma patients in combination with Cisplatin, Alimta and Epirubicin.
It is believed to be the most effective drug in treatment of pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma patients have shown good responses. Gemcitabine is a clear liquid administered by an infusion that usually takes no longer than half an hour. It may also be given through a central line into a vein near the collarbone.
The method and schedule by which this drug is administration is determined by the type and extent of the cancer and is a decision made by the medical oncologist. Generally, it is given once a week for as long as the patient responds to the drug. The degree and severity of the side effects depend largely on the dosage administered.
The following are some of the side effects that a patient might experience:
Some patients develop a temporary reduction in bone marrow function. This is generally mild but can occasionally be more severe. If it does occur, it can result in anemia, risk of bruising or bleeding and an increased risk of infection. If a patient develops a temporary reduction in bone marrow function, it will typically begin about 7 days after the treatment has been given and will usually reach its lowest point at about 10-14 days after the chemotherapy. Afterwards, the patient's blood count will increase steadily and will usually return to normal within 21 days.
Some patients will experience illness a few hours after treatment, but generally the symptoms are not severe, are treatable by anti-sickness drugs and will dissipate after a day or so. If more severe symptoms are experienced the patient should get in touch with his or her doctor straight away. For instance, patients who develop a high temperature (above 100.5F), suffer unexplained bruising or bleeding, or suddenly feel unwell (regardless of their temperature), are advised to contact their doctor or hospital immediately.
Some patients will experience a reduction in appetite but generally this is mild and only lasts a day or so. Some patients will experience a temporary effect on their liver and/or kidney functions, but these effects are unlikely to be noticed by the patient, and both liver and kidney will generally return to normal at the end of treatment. Gemcitabine may cause a mild treatable rash in some patients but again this symptom is temporary.
Some patients will develop fluid retention that will appear in the form of swelling ankles or breathlessness. In these instances a doctor should be notified immediately.
Less commonly patients will develop mouth sores and ulcers which are easily treated by prescribed medicines. Diarrhea is developed by 19% of patients receiving Gemcitabine but can also be easily controlled with medicine. Hair loss is seen in about 15% of patients but more commonly the patients hair only thins temporarily returning to its natural fullness once treatment is finished. It is imperative that patients relay any side effects or problems to their medical oncologists.
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