Background: Gemcitabine has shown activity in patients with less chemosensitive solid tumors. Phase II screening of novel drugs is an accepted method with which to investigate new therapies in malignant mesothelioma. The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer-Lung Cancer Cooperative Group has performed several sequential Phase II trials of new agents for the treatment of mesothelioma over the last 10 years.
Methods: Twenty-seven chemotherapy-naive patients with histologically proven malignant mesothelioma were treated with gemcitabine as a 30-minute intravenous administration of 1250 mg/m2 on Days 1, 8, and 15 of a 28-day cycle. Therapy continued for up to ten cycles unless disease progression or excessive toxicity mandated discontinuation.
Results: With a median relative dose intensity of 96%, toxicity was mild and neutropenia of > or = Grade 3 (according to National Cancer Institute criteria) occurred in 30% of patients, without episodes of febrile neutropenia. One case of hemolytic-uremic syndrome, most likely related to gemcitabine use, was observed. Overall, 2 objective responses were observed (response rate of 7%; 95% confidence interval, 1-24%). The median survival was 8 months.
Conclusions: At the prescribed dosage and schedule, single agent gemcitabine appears to have limited activity in chemotherapy-naive patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.