Scientist wins NAS award for mesothelioma drug

Alimta is a medication approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma, a deadly respiratory cancer. The chemist who was responsible for the science that led to the medication's development has now been honored by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) with the Chemistry in Service to Society award. Edward C. Taylor, A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Organic Chemistry Emeritus at Princeton University, made significant contributions to the field of heterocyclic chemistry, which ultimately led to the development of the antifolate, pemetrexed (brand name Alimta). In addition for its existing approval for the treatment of mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer, pemetrexed is also in clinical trials for other types of cancer, such as head and neck cancer. The FDA first approved Alimta for mesothelioma treatment in early 2004. It was the first drug approved to treat the rare cancer. The FDA subsequently approved Alimta for lung cancer treatment in 2008. Dr. Taylor's initial research led to Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, picking up on that work and taking it to clinical development. Once developed and branded Alimta, the medication sailed through clinical trials and has since become the fundamental chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma. Treatments for mesothelioma are so far designed to reduce the symptoms and to extend the life expectancy of victims. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for mesothelioma. Only a doctor can diagnose mesothelioma and determine a mesothelioma prognosis. That prognosis will be the determining factor for the best forms of treatments a patient should pursue. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), typical treatment options usually consist of a combination of surgeries as well as therapies such as radiation, vaccine therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy. Additional treatments currently in clinical trials are sometimes accessible to mesothelioma patients as well, depending on specific requirements. Alimta is applied via chemotherapy and works by stopping the formation of DNA and RNA necessary for the function and replication of mesothelioma cancer cells. A platinum-based agent, cisplatin, is usually combined with Alimta in the treatment of mesothelioma. Side effects of Alimta do exist and include anemia, nausea, and fatigue. Patients using Alimta can lessen such side effects sometimes by supplementing with B12 vitamins and folic acid. According to a 2011 University of Chicago study, genetics possibly influence people's sensitivity to Alimta. Dr. Taylor receives a $20,000 prize with his NAS award, which he will receive formally at the Academy’s 150th annual meeting in April.
Reference: National Academy of Sciences
  • http://www.nasonline.org/news-and-multimedia/news/jan-7-2013-NASawards.html
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