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Dramatic tumour response to pemetrexed single-agent in an elderly patient with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: a case report
© Fasola et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2006
Received: 26 May 2006
Accepted: 18 December 2006
Published: 18 December 2006
To date, there is no standard treatment for unresectable malignant peritoneal mesothelioma; either best supportive care or systemic chemotherapy with palliative intent are accepted options.
Here, we report the case of a 79-year old patient with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma who was treated with pemetrexed single-agent and obtained an impressive long-lasting response.
Single-agent pemetrexed is a treatment option for malignant peritoneal mesothelioma in selected elderly patients or in patients with unpaired performance status.
Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma (MPM) accounts for 10–30% of all malignant mesothelioma cases . Although a direct causal relationship between pleural mesothelioma and occupational asbestos exposure is strong , only 33% of patients with MPM report a history of asbestos exposure . Most of the patients present with abdominal distension and/or pain, and occasionally bowel obstruction; other signs at presentation include ascites, tenderness, and palpable masses . Findings at computed tomography (CT) scan may appear similar to other metastatic tumours, with nodules, plaques, thickening, masses involving the parietal and visceral peritoneum, and lymphadenopathy. A definite diagnosis of MPM can be difficult and requires histological examination with appropriate immunohistochemical analysis on adequate biopsy samples. Malignant mesothelioma is characterized by the presence of staining for calretinin, cytokeratin 5/6, and absence of staining for carcinoembryonic antigen and MOC-31 (or B72.3, Ber-EP4, or BG-8) .
Prognosis of MPM is dismal and there is no standard treatment approach: although multimodality treatment including intraperitoneal chemotherapy and cytoreductive surgery may result in prolonged survival in selected patients , either best supportive care or systemic chemotherapy with palliative intent are accepted approaches.
Here we report a case of an elderly patient with unresectable MPM treated with single-agent pemetrexed.
In April 2004, a 79-year-old man presented with a 4 month history of subcutaneous abdominal nodules and bilateral inguinal lymphadenopathy; no other signs or symptoms were present.
The patient was retired after various occupations; he had also worked for 7 years at the local port and for 3 years in a motor factory, but he had no memory of direct exposure to asbestos. He had no smoking history. Medical history included partial gastric resection due to gastric and duodenal ulcers with concomitant cholecystectomy for cholelithiasis at 44, surgical removal of a renal stone at 74, diagnosis of benign prostatic hypertrophy at 76.
A CT of the chest, abdomen and pelvis showed the presence of a large mass occupying the epigastrium and the left upper region of the abdomen (longest diameter: 9 cm), and multiple diffuse abdominal nodules along the peritoneal surface and below the anterior abdominal wall (longest diameter: 5 cm); imaging confirmed the presence of bilateral inguinal lymphadenopathy. A small amount of ascites was present; liver, spleen and kidneys were spared. Chest CT was negative, with no evidence of pleural or pulmonary parenchymal abnormalities. An excisional biopsy of the left inguinal lymphadenopathy was performed. Histological analysis showed malignant neoplasm with a micropapillary, microcystic, and solid growth pattern infiltrating the adjacent soft tissues. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed positive staining of tumour cells for cytokeratins 5 and 7, vimentin, epithelial membrane antigen (EMA), epithelial specific antigen (ESA), calretinin; no reactivity was observed for carcinoembryonic antigen or Tag/B72.3. Histological and immunohistochemical findings were consistent with a well differentiated biphasic malignancy of mesothelial origin.
In July 2004 the patient was referred to our Department for management. At admission, he reported progressive clinical deterioration (Karnofsky Performance Status 80), fatigue, unintentional weight loss of 6 kg and persistent fever over the last few weeks. His medications were terazosine and finasteride. Physical examination showed a subcutaneous epi-mesogastric mass (9 × 6 cm) and bilateral inguinal lymphadenopathy. Complete blood count showed haemoglobin 11.6 g/dL, platelet count 559,000 per cubic millimeter, and white cell count 8,400 per cubic millimeter, with a normal differential count; renal function and liver function tests were normal.
In August 2005, a follow-up CT revealed the reappearance of nodular peritoneal lesions. Due to the significant benefit observed and the duration of response (11 months) the patient was retreated with pemetrexed for 4 cycles from August to November 2005, resulting in disease stabilization. At the time of his last appointment at our Department in February 2006, a CT scan confirmed stable disease.
The efficacy of systemic chemotherapy as well as chemotherapy regimens to be used in patients with MPM are mainly extrapolated from studies in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma. In a randomized phase III trial in malignant pleural mesothelioma, pemetrexed, a novel multitargeted antifolate, showed significantly longer survival in combination with cisplatin compared to cisplatin alone (median survival 12.1 vs. 9.3 months; p < 0.02) .
A subset analysis of data from patients with MPM in an expanded access program showed a favourable safety profile and encouraging activity for pemetrexed alone or in combination with cisplatin, both in the first- and in the second-line setting . Disease control rate (complete response + partial response + stable disease) was 71%; overall response rate was 25% and 23% in chemonaive (n = 28) and previously treated (n = 43) patients, respectively. The most common adverse events (i.e. dehydration, nausea, vomiting) were clinically manageable. In that series, only 3 chemotherapy-naive patients who received pemetrexed single agent were included: no response was observed (2 stable disease, 1 progressive disease). Here, we report durable disease control in an elderly chemo-naive patient with MPM, obtained with pemetrexed single agent, without significant toxicity.
Due to the favourable toxicity profile and activity in MPM, pemetrexed single-agent may be a treatment option for selected elderly patients and patients unfit for a platinum based chemotherapy. A prospective clinical trial should be conducted to confirm this indication. However, MPM is a rare tumour; large trials evaluating new treatment approaches in this setting, especially in selected patients (i.e. elderly or poor performance status patients), are in general not feasible.
Although the use of pemetrexed in malignant mesothelioma is mostly supported in combination with platinum, our report suggests that single-agent pemetrexed may be considered for selected elderly or unfit patients with MPM.
Written consent was obtained from the patient for publication of the case report.
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