Chordomas are ultrarare tumors of the axial spine and skull-base without approved systemic therapy. Most chordomas have negative expression of thymidylate synthase (TS), suggesting a potential for responding to the antifolate agent pemetrexed, which inhibits TS and other enzymes involved in nucleotide biosynthesis. We evaluated the therapeutic activity and safety of high-dose pemetrexed in progressive chordoma.

Patients and Methods:

Adult patients with previously treated, progressive chordoma participated in an open-label, single-institution, single-arm, pilot clinical trial of intravenous pemetrexed 900 mg/m2 every 3 weeks and supportive medications of folic acid, vitamin B12, and dexamethasone. The primary endpoint was objective response rate according to RECIST v1.1. Secondary endpoints included adverse events, progression-free survival (PFS), tumor molecular profiles, and alterations in tissue and blood-based biomarkers.


Fifteen patients were enrolled and the median number of doses administered was 15 (range, 4–31). One patient discontinued treatment due to psychosocial issues after four cycles and one contracted COVID-19 after 13 cycles. Of the 14 response-evaluable patients, 2 (14%) achieved a partial response and 10 (71%) demonstrated stable disease. Median PFS was 10.5 months (95% confidence interval: 9 months–undetermined) and 6-month PFS was 67%. Adverse events were expected and relatively mild, with one grade 3 creatinine increased, and one each of grade 3 and 4 lymphopenia. No grade 5 adverse events, unexpected toxicities, or dose-limiting toxicities were observed. Several patients reported clinical improvement in disease-related symptoms.


High-dose pemetrexed appears tolerable and shows objective antitumor activity in patients with chordoma. Phase II studies of high-dose pemetrexed are warranted.

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