Abstract Background Although platinum-based doublet chemotherapy is considered as standard of care for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), most of them are eventually supposed to experience disease progression. Pemetrexed, docetaxel, erlotinib, and gefitinib have been shown to be active as monotherapy for pretreated patients. In this study, the efficacy of pemetrexed and carboplatin as a salvage therapy for patients with advanced NSCLC is evaluated. Patients and methods From March 2007 to February 2009, 32 patients who were diagnosed with inoperable NSCLC and treated with one or more prior cisplatin-based chemotherapies were enrolled. Treatment consisted of pemetrexed 500 mg/m 2 over a 10-min intravenous infusion and carboplatin at an AUC 5 mg/mL/min over a 30-min intravenous infusion on Day 1 of a 21-day cycle. All patients were supplemented with folic acid and vitamin B12 to reduce the hematological toxicity of pemetrexed. Results There were one (3.1%) complete response and five partial (15.6%) responses. The overall response rate was 18.8% and the median response duration was 4.4 months. Among the responders, four patients had adenocarcinoma and two had squamous cell carcinoma. Nine patients had stable disease, and the disease control rate was 46.9%. With a median follow up duration of 9.4 months, the median time to progression was 2.3 months and the median OS was 9.4 months. Seven patients (21.9%) experienced grade 3 and 4 hematologic toxicities; one anemia (3.1%), six neutropenia (18.8%), and six thrombocytopenia (18.8%). Two patients experienced grade 4 febrile neutropenia with infection. Four patients (12.5%) experienced grade 3 non-hematologic toxicities; four asthenia (12.5%), two anorexia (6.3%), and one stomatitis (3.1%). Grade 1–2 peripheral neuropathy developed in 13 patients (40.6%). Conclusion The combination of pemetrexed and carboplatin showed favorable toxicity profiles and activity in the pretreated patients with advanced NSCLC. It is suggested that this regimen can be a good chemotherapeutic option as a salvage therapy for patients with NSCLC.