Skip to Content

Alimta (pemetrexed for injection) First Agent Approved in Europe as Maintenance Therapy for Advanced, Nonsquamous Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

First Therapy Shown To Improve Overall Survival in Maintenance Setting in Patients with Nonsquamous NSCLC Histology

INDIANAPOLIS, July 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) announced today that the European Commission has granted approval for the use of ALIMTA(R) (pemetrexed for injection) as monotherapy for maintenance treatment of patients with other than predominantly squamous cell histology in locally-advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), whose disease has not progressed immediately following platinum-based chemotherapy. This approval is based on data that showed pemetrexed improved overall survival in other than predominantly squamous NSCLC patients in the maintenance setting.

Pemetrexed is a chemotherapy agent currently approved for first-line treatment of advanced, other than predominantly squamous NSCLC in combination with a platinum-based chemotherapy, and as a single agent in the second-line setting for advanced, other than predominantly squamous NSCLC patients with recurrent disease.

NSCLC is defined as a group of histologies, that is, tumor types differentiated by cellular structure. Other than predominantly squamous histology, also referred to as nonsquamous histology, includes adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma, which account for more than half of all NSCLC diagnoses,(1) as well histologies classified as "other."

The concept of maintenance therapy represents a paradigm shift in the treatment of advanced, other than predominantly squamous NSCLC. Traditionally, patients who respond to first-line chemotherapy are monitored until the disease recurs and are then treated with a second-line regimen. In maintenance therapy, rather than halting further treatment until disease progression, patients who respond to a first-line therapy are treated immediately with a maintenance regimen.

"The idea behind ALIMTA as maintenance therapy for nonsquamous, non-small cell lung cancer is to treat patients immediately following their initial course of therapy, in an effort to prolong survival," said Richard Gaynor, M.D., vice president, cancer research and global oncology platform leader at Lilly. "The study that led to this approval was the first that showed improved overall survival in the maintenance setting for NSCLC. This was also the third trial to show the benefit of tailoring ALIMTA treatment to the nonsquamous NSCLC patient population."

Overall survival data for pemetrexed as a maintenance therapy for NSCLC was presented on May 31, 2009, at the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).(2)

The trial compared efficacy with respect to overall survival of pemetrexed plus best supportive care versus placebo plus best supportive care in 663 patients with stage IIIB/IV NSCLC whose disease had not progressed after four cycles of platinum-based induction chemotherapy. Pemetrexed was not included among the induction regimens studied in the maintenance trial. The trial supported two previous studies looking at the use of histology to tailor treatment for patients with advanced, other than predominantly squamous NSCLC.

Patients in the trial were treated with pemetrexed (500 mg/m2 on day one of each 21-day cycle) plus best supportive care or placebo plus best supportive care. All patients were supplemented with vitamin B12, folic acid and dexamethasone.

This latest approval for pemetrexed - the fourth in Europe - follows an initial positive opinion issued by the European Medicines Agency's (EMEA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) on May 29, 2009, and the recent approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of pemetrexed for maintenance therapy in advanced, nonsquamous NSCLC patients whose disease has not progressed after four cycles of platinum-based first-line chemotherapy.

Apart from the existing approvals in the EU and U.S. for the use of pemetrexed in the treatment of patients with locally-advanced or metastatic other than predominantly squamous NSCLC, pemetrexed is also approved, in combination with cisplatin, in both the EU and U.S. for the treatment of chemotherapy naive patients with unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma.

  Notes to Editor
  About Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

Globally, lung cancer is the most common form of cancer and the biggest killer, causing 1.3 million cancer deaths annually.(3) About 85 - 90 percent of all lung cancers are NSCLC.(4,5) NSCLC has five-tier staging, starting at 0 and rising to the severity of stage IV.(6) NSCLC can spread through the lymphatic system, penetrating the chest lining, ribs, and the nerves and blood vessels that lead to the arm. The liver, bones and brain are potential targets if the cancerous cells enter the bloodstream.

About Lilly Oncology, a Division of Eli Lilly and Company

For more than four decades, Lilly Oncology has been dedicated to delivering innovative solutions that improve the care of people living with cancer. Because no two cancer patients are alike, Lilly Oncology is committed to developing novel treatment approaches. Our quest is to develop a broad portfolio of tailored therapies that accelerate the pace and progress of cancer care.

About Eli Lilly and Company

Lilly, a leading innovation-driven corporation, is developing a growing portfolio of pharmaceutical products by applying the latest research from its own worldwide laboratories and from collaborations with eminent scientific organizations. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Lilly provides answers - through medicines and information - for some of the world's most urgent medical needs.


  ALIMTA(R) (pemetrexed for injection), Lilly

  Important Safety Information for ALIMTA

ALIMTA is approved by the FDA in combination with cisplatin (another chemotherapy drug) for the initial treatment of advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a specific type of NSCLC. ALIMTA is not indicated for patients who have a different type of NSCLC called squamous cell.

ALIMTA is approved by the FDA for the treatment of patients with advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a specific type of NSCLC, to maintain the effect of initial treatment with chemotherapy and whose disease has not worsened. ALIMTA is not indicated for patients who have a different type of NSCLC called squamous cell.

ALIMTA is approved by the FDA as a single agent (used alone) for the treatment of patients with advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a specific type of NSCLC, after prior chemotherapy. ALIMTA is not indicated for patients who have a different type of NSCLC called squamous cell.

ALIMTA is approved by the FDA as a treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), which is a cancer that affects the inside lining of the chest cavity. ALIMTA is given with cisplatin, another anticancer medicine (chemotherapy), when surgery is not an option.

ALIMTA may not be appropriate for some patients. If you are allergic to ALIMTA, tell your doctor because you should not receive it. If you think you are pregnant, are planning to become pregnant, or are nursing, please tell your healthcare team. ALIMTA may harm your unborn or nursing baby. Your physician may advise you to use effective contraception (birth control) to prevent pregnancy while you are being treated with ALIMTA.

If you have liver or kidney problems, be sure to tell your doctor. Your dose of ALIMTA may have to be changed, or ALIMTA may not be right for you. There is a risk of side effects associated with ALIMTA therapy. ALIMTA can suppress bone marrow function. It is very important to take folic acid and vitamin B12 prior to and during your treatment with ALIMTA to lower your chances of harmful side effects.

Your healthcare professional will prescribe a medicine called a corticosteroid, which lowers your chances of getting skin reactions with ALIMTA. Ask your healthcare professional before taking medicines called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat pain or swelling). Tell your doctor if you are taking other medicines, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

The most common side effects of ALIMTA when given alone or in combination with cisplatin, another chemotherapy drug, are low blood cell counts (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets); tiredness; stomach upset, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; mouth, throat, or lip sores; loss of appetite; rash; and constipation.

Call your healthcare professional right away if you have a fever, chills, diarrhea, or mouth sores. These symptoms could mean you have an infection. These are not all of the side effects of ALIMTA. If you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away, be sure to talk with your healthcare professional.

You will have regular blood tests before and during your treatment with ALIMTA. Your doctor may adjust your dose of ALIMTA or delay your treatment based on the results of your blood test and on your general condition.

For more information about all of the side effects of ALIMTA, please talk with your healthcare team, see the Patient Prescribing Information and full Prescribing Information, visit, or call 1-800-545-5979.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

This press release contains forward-looking statements about the potential of ALIMTA for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer and reflects Lilly's current beliefs. However, as with any pharmaceutical product under development, there are substantial risks and uncertainties in the process of development, commercialization, and regulatory review. There is no guarantee that the products will receive additional regulatory approvals. There is also no guarantee that the products will continue to be commercially successful. For further discussion of these and other risks and uncertainties, see Lilly's filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Lilly undertakes no duty to update forward-looking statements.

Posted: July 2009