New kidney cancer drug shows promise

2 Oct 2007

An experimental drug has shown promise in patients with advanced kidney cancer whose tumours fail to respond to all other therapy.

The study, presented by Dr Brian Rini from the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, USA, found that the experimental drug, axitinib, shrank tumours and delayed further development of the disease in a group of patients amongst the toughest to treat.

Scientists gave axitinib to 62 patients whose kidney cancer had spread and who had not benefited from a standard treatment, sorafenib, a targeted therapy designed to disrupt cell division signals in cancer cells and block the tumour’s ability to form new blood vessels that help it grow. Fourteen of the patients also had been given, to no avail, another similarly targeted drug, sunitinib, after the sorafenib had failed to work. Axitinib works in a similar manner to the other two but is believed to be more potent.

Dr Rini found that 51% of the patients experienced tumour shrinkage and in 23% of these, the shrinkage was significant. His preliminary analysis showed that the progression-free survival was on average over 7.7 months.

Speaking at the European Cancer Conference in Barclona, Dr Rini said: “We think these results are impressive because these patients were heavily pre-treated and with drugs thought to be similar to axitinib. The disease progressed in only 24% of patients, which we think is low in this kind of setting. Historically, metastatic kidney cancer has been very tough to treat, with a median survival of 12 months. Through the results of this trial, it appears that axitinib is a very active drug in renal cell cancer that can benefit a large number of patients.”