Targeted Drugs Slow Kidney Cancer
Drugs That Target a Tumor's Blood Supply May Help Treat Advanced Kidney Cancer
Jan. 10, 2007 -- Drugs that target blood vessels that feed tumors are
showing promise in the treatment of advanced kidney cancer.
Two studies published in the latest issue of The New England Journal of
Medicine represent a "major step forward" in kidney cancer
treatment, a leading researcher in the field tells WebMD.
The studies offer some of the best evidence yet that therapies that target
the tumor blood supply -- known as antiangiogenesis drugs -- have a role to
play in cancer treatment, says James Brugarolas, MD, PhD, of the University of
Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Researchers evaluated the oral drugs sunitinib and sorafenib. The drugs
target the blood supply of the tumor and tumor growth.
"Just a few years ago, we only had one highly toxic drug approved for
the treatment of this cancer," says Brugarolas, who did not participate in
the two trials. "We now have these new treatments that arise from our
understanding of the biology of this cancer."
The two new drugs did not cure patients of their disease, and it is not yet
clear if they help keep patients alive longer than traditional drug
But both drugs appeared to slow tumor growth by several months in patients
who participated in the two studies.
Particularly Deadly Cancer
An estimated 39,000 Americans are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year,
and 13,000 people die of the disease, according to the American Cancer
Surgery is the treatment of choice for localized disease, but in well over
half of cases the tumor has either spread beyond the kidneys at diagnosis or
the cancer recurs following surgery.
For many years, the toxic therapies interferon alfa or interleukin-2 have
been the only available treatments for advanced renal kidney cancer, but they
work for only a small percentage of patients.
As a result, the estimated five-year survival rate for patients with
advanced kidney cancer is less than 10%, according to the National Cancer
These drugs help prevent tumor growth and target the tumor's blood supply.
Both sunitinib and sorafenib have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of
advanced kidney cancer.
The brand name of sunitinib is Sutent; it's made by Pfizer. The brand name
of sorafenib is Nexavar; it's made by Bayer Healthcare. Both are WebMD
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