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Widely used kidney cancer drugs don't prevent recurrence, study says

Researchers found the drugs sunitinib and sorafenib did not increase disease-free years of survival over a placebo among participants in a study.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 10, 2016 at 2:00 PM

PHILADELPHIA, March 10 (UPI) -- Two drugs widely used after surgery for kidney cancer do not prevent the disease from returning, according to a new study.

Researchers in a large study found virtually no increase in years of disease-free survival in patients given sunitinib or sorafenib, though they said other ongoing studies may show benefits of using the drugs after surgery to remove kidney tumors.

The two drugs are kinase inhibitors, which target proteins on or near the surface of cells that help tumors grow. Both have been approved for use to prevent, and are effective against, kidney cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

"The current standard of care for these patients is close observation," Dr. Naomi Haas, an associate professor of hematology and oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a press release. "Unfortunately, we found that the use of sunitinib or sorafenib in this setting did not reduce the incidence of recurrence as compared to placebo. Fortunately, the use of these drugs in this setting did not appear to make the outcome of patients receiving them any worse."

For the study, published in The Lancet, researchers recruited 1,943 patients who had surgery to remove kidney tumors between 2006 and 2010, giving one-third sunitinib, one-third sorafenib, and the rest a placebo, following them for one year.

The three treatments resulted in similar years of disease-free survival for participants, with those on sunitinib surviving disease-free for a median of 5.8 years, patients treated with sorafenib went 6.1 years without a relapse, and those on placebo were disease-free for 6.6 years.

Researchers said the results are similar to those of other studies with adjuvant therapies, or secondary treatment for cancer -- in the case of sunitinib or sorafenib, patients are treated with the drug after kidney tumors are completely removed.

The researchers say, however, their study does not rule out either drug's use as an adjuvant because of other trials looking at the how long either drug is used, and the effects of other kinase inhibitors.

"It is important to support these trials so we learn how to better treat kidney cancer in the adjuvant setting," Haas said.

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