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FDA Approves Drug For Advanced Kidney Cancer

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Afinitor oral tablets (everolimus) for the treatment of patients with advanced kidney cancer whose disease has progressed after treatment with other cancer therapies.

Renal cell cancer, the most common type of kidney cancer, originates in the lining of the small tubules in the kidney that filter waste products from the blood. The cancer is resistant to such standard treatments as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and the initial treatment for most patients is surgical removal of the kidney. If the cancer is confined to the kidney, the five-year survival rate is 60 to 70 percent; but the survival rate is considerably lower after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

"Afinitor provides an option for patients with advanced renal cell cancer after failure of treatment with the cancer therapies sunitinib or sorafenib," said Robert Justice, M.D., director, Division of Drug Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Targeted cancer therapies like Afinitor have increased the number of months patients can live without the tumor progressing."

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Afinitor belongs to a class of drugs called kinase inhibitors, which interfere with cell communication, preventing tumor growth. The drug is intended for those patients with advanced renal cell cancer who have already tried another kinase inhibitor, Sutent (sunitinib) or Nexavar (sorafenib).

While Sutent and Nexavar are multiple kinase inhibitors (acting on a number of cellular targets), Afinitor works by blocking a specific protein known as the mammalian target of rapamycin or mTOR. The protein blocking action disrupts the growth, division and metabolism of cancer cells.

A clinical trial studying the safety and effectiveness of Afinitor was discontinued after an interim analysis showed that, in patients receiving the drug, the growth or spread of the tumor was delayed when compared to patients who did not receive the drug. In addition, disease progression was delayed approximately five months in half of the patients who received Afinitor. In contrast, disease progression was delayed two months in patients who did not receive the drug.

The most frequent adverse reactions in the trial (occurring in at least 20 percent of patients) included inflammation in the mouth, loss of strength, diarrhea, poor appetite, fluid buildup in the extremities, shortness of breath, coughing, nausea, vomiting, rash, and fever. Laboratory tests of blood samples determined that at least half of all patients experienced anemia, low white blood counts, high cholesterol and high triglycerides and high blood sugar.

Afinitor is manufactured by Novartis International AG of Basel, Switzerland. Sutent is manufactured by Pfizer Inc. of New York. Nexavar is manufactured by Bayer HealthCare AG, Leverkusen, Germany.