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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Pemetrexed single agent chemotherapy in previously treated patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer

Francesca Russo1*, Alessandra Bearz2, Gianni Pampaloni1 and the investigators of the Italian Pemetrexed monotherapy of NSCLC group

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Department, Eli Lilly Italia S.p.A. Sesto Fiorentino (FI), Italy

2 Oncologia Medica, Centro di Riferimento Oncologico Aviano (PN), Italy

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BMC Cancer 2008, 8:216  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-216

Published: 31 July 2008



The main objective of this study was to evaluate the safety of second-line pemetrexed in Stage IIIB or IV NSCLC.


Overall, 95 patients received pemetrexed 500 mg/m2 i.v. over Day 1 of a 21-day cycle. Patients also received oral dexamethasone, oral folic acid and i.m. vitamin B12 supplementation to reduce toxicity. NCI CTC 2.0 was used to rate toxicity. All the adverse events were graded in terms of severity and relation to study treatment. Dose was reduced in case of toxicity and treatment was delayed for up to 42 days from Day 1 of any cycle to allow recovering from study drug-related toxicities. Tumor response was measured using the RECIST criteria.


Patients received a median number of 4 cycles and 97.8% of the planned dose. Overall, 75 patients (78.9% of treated) reported at least one adverse event: 34 (35.8%) had grade 3 as worst grade and only 5 (5.2%) had grade 4. Drug-related events occurred in 57.9% of patients. Neutropenia (8.4%) and leukopenia (6.3 %) were the most common grade 3/4 hematological toxicities. Grade 3 anemia and thrombocytopenia were reported in 3.2% and 2.1% of patients, respectively. Diarrhea (6.3%), fatigue (3.2%) and dyspnea (3.2%) were the most common grade 3/4 non-hematological toxicities. The most common drug-related toxicities (any grade) were pyrexia (11.6%), vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and asthenia (9.5%) and fatigue (8.4%). Tumor Response Rate (CR/PR) in treated patients was 9.2%. The survival at 4.5 months (median follow-up) was 79% and the median PFS was 3.1 months. Twenty patients (21.1%) died mainly because of disease progression.


Patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC could benefit from second-line pemetrexed, with a low incidence of hematological and non-hematological toxicities.