Targeted Drugs Slow Kidney Cancer
Drugs That Target a Tumor's Blood Supply May Help Treat Advanced Kidney Cancer
WebMD News Archive
The Sunitinib Findings
The newly reported sunitinib trial included 750 previously untreated
patients with advanced kidney cancer. About half of the
patients were treated with a standard course of the oral drug and about half
received a standard course of interferon alfa.
Researchers reported that the median time it took tumors to grow, known as
disease-free progression, was more than twice as long in the sunitinib-treated
patients than in those treated with interferon -- 11 months vs. five
And 31% of the patients on the newer drug had improvements from treatment --
as seen on radiologic imaging -- compared with just 6% of the
interferon-treated patients. As a group, the sunitinib patients also reported
significantly better overall quality of life than the patients treated with
Researcher Robert J. Motzer, MD, of New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center, tells WebMD that it is still not clear if treatment with
sunitinib keeps patients alive longer, but he adds that there is good reason to
believe that it does.
"You would expect that more than a doubling in disease-free survival
would translate into longer overall survival, but we can't say that yet,"
The Sorafenib Study
Unlike the patients in Motzer's trial, those in the sorafenib study had
already been treated, mostly with either interferon alfa or interleukin-2. All
were considered treatment resistant.
Half of the 903 study participants received sorafenib and the other half
Compared with placebo-treated patients, patients treated with sorafenib also
had longer median progression-free survival (5.5 months vs. 2.8 months), and a
higher response rate (10% vs. 2%).
There was a greater incidence of toxic side effects in the sorafenib-treated
patients. The most commonly reported toxicities were diarrhea, rash, fatigue, and unpleasant
skin reactions in the hands and feet. Serious adverse events included heart
problems in 12 patients and hypertension.
In the study by Motzer and colleagues, just under a third of patients
reduced their dosage of the antiangiogenesis drug due to these toxicities.
Motzer says the next step for researchers is to determine if responses
improve when sunitinib, sorafenib, and similar therapies are given in
"For many years, kidney cancer has been considered to be among the most
treatment-resistant cancers," he says. "In the past there has been
little hope for success with any treatment, but these drugs are changing