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First Treatment for Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer

First treatment for asbestos-related lung cancer improves patient survival

Auckland – The first and only oncology treatment for asbestos-related lung cancer, malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), has been registered for use in New Zealand and is now available1. Alimta (Pemetrexed) has been shown to extend the life expectancy of MPM patients to an average of twelve months from six to eight months on existing treatments2.

Alimta tackles MPM, a cancer of the lung lining, which kills around 60 New Zealanders each year3 by gradually surrounding the lung making deep breathing difficult eventually spreading to other vital organs. Alimta is used in combination with oncology treatment cisplatin stopping production of three enzymes required to feed the cancer cells allowing them to spread1.

Auckland hospital medical oncologist Dr Richard Sullivan said the improved survival rates were fantastic news for patients. “Until now survival rates for this rare cancer have been very poor. The disease can take anything up to 40 years to develop after initial exposure to the cause so most people are not diagnosed until the cancer is in its advanced stages.

"Before these treatments patients lived on average six to eight months after diagnosis. Now average survival time has been increased to just over a year, and after a year about 50 percent of patients are still living. Quality of life is also significantly improved for the majority who get treatment This is fantastic progress for a group of patients who have until now had a very short life expectancy and poor quality of life," said Dr Sullivan.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 people around the world are diagnosed annually with MPM4. In New Zealand around 60 people a year are diagnosed with the majority being men exposed to asbestos through a previous work environment. Incidence of MPM in New Zealand has grown significantly over the last ten years as the effects of exposure decades ago is finally realised3.

Eli Lilly and Company NZ Country Manager James Sleigh says the treatment is a huge innovation in a neglected but emotionally charged area. “Alimta has taken some years for the company to develop and it has remained committed to providing these unfortunate patients with some hope. There has always been strong public support for MPM patients who have developed a terminal illness through no fault of their own.

“The company is delighted the new treatment can be made available and is currently preparing a submission for public funding to give all eligible patients a better survival chance.”


Prepared for Eli Lilly by Communication by Design. For more information contact:

Dr Richard Sullivan Medical Oncologist Auckland Hospital Ph: 09 367 0000 Mble: 0275 638 200

James Sleigh NZ Country Manager Eli Lilly and Company NZ Ltd Ph: 09 261 1213 Mble: 021 721 983

Tammy Dickinson Communication by Design Ph: 09 358 9801 Mble: 025 290 2850

About Eli Lilly and Company NZ Ltd Eli Lilly and Company NZ Ltd is part of one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies. It provides innovative pharmaceuticals to New Zealanders concentrating on oncology, diabetes, mental health, critical care and erectile dysfunction.

Worldwide Eli Lilly employs some 46,000 people in 138 countries with over 8,700 employees engaged in research and development. It is an innovation-driven corporation committed to developing a growing portfolio of best-in-class and first-in-class pharmaceutical products that help people live longer, healthier and more active lives.

References Alimta data sheet – www.medsafe.govt.nz Vogelzang, N. et al; Phase 3 study of pemetrexed in combination with cisplatin versus cisplatin alone in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma; Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 21, No 14 (July15), 2003:pg 2636-2644 Kjellstrom, T.E; The Epidemic of Asbestos-related diseases in New Zealand; Int J Occup Environ Health 2004; pg 212-219 http://www.mirg.org/whats/clinicaltrials_art9.shtml - mesothelioma information and resource group.

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