The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Sutent (sunitinib) to treat patients with progressive neuroendocrine cancerous tumours located in the pancreas that cannot be removed by surgery or that have spread to other parts of the body (metastatic).
Neuroendocrine tumours found in the pancreas are slow-growing and rare. It is estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 new cases in the United States each year.
This is the second new approval by the FDA to treat patients with this disease; on May 5, the agency approved Afinitor (everolimus).
"FDA believes it is important to provide cancer patients with as many treatment options as possible," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Oncology Drug Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "The agency is committed to working with companies to bring innovative new therapies to the market and encourages companies to continue exploring additional uses for approved products."
The safety and effectiveness of Sutent was established in a single study of 171 patients with metastatic (late-stage) or locally advanced (disease that could not be removed with surgery) disease who received Sutent or a placebo (sugar pill). The study was designed to measure the length of time a patient lived before their disease spread or worsened (progression-free survival).
Results from the study demonstrate that Sutent provided benefit to patients by prolonging the median length of time they lived without the cancer spreading or worsening to 10.2 months compared to 5.4 months for patients who received placebo.
In patients treated with Sutent for neuroendocrine pancreatic tumours, the most commonly reported side effects included diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anorexia, high blood pressure, energy loss (asthenia), stomach (abdominal) pain, changes in hair color, inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis), and a decrease in infection-fighting white blood cells (neutropenia).
Sutent is also FDA-approved to treat patients with late-stage kidney cancer (metastatic renal cell carcinoma) and to treat patients with GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumour), a rare cancer of the stomach, bowel, or esophagus.
Sutent is marketed by New York City-based Pfizer.
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