Drug offers better life for terminal kidney patients
21:56 GMT, 9 June 2012
For patients with terminal kidney cancer, treatment is focused on extending life as comfortably as possible.
Until now, the most widely prescribed medication to treat advanced forms of the condition was sunitinib, widely known by its brand name Sutent – and it led to a raft of distressing side effects.
Now, a unique trial, which was unveiled at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago last week, has shown that patients fare far better on a new, lesser-known drug – Votrient (pazopanib).
Faring better: Patients are experiencing less unpleasant side effects on the new, lesser-known drug Votrient (pazopanib)
Renal cell carcinoma accounts for more than 80 per cent of kidney cancers in the UK – and about two to three per cent of all new cases of cancer.
In 2009, around 9,286 people were diagnosed with kidney cancer, and it is estimated that 4,062 died of the disease in 2010.
‘Once a patient has advanced renal cell carcinoma, drugs are about extending life and providing quality of life,’ says consultant medical oncologist Professor Robert Hawkins at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, who was one of the UK clinical trial investigators.
‘They provide palliative care, and we are looking to make patients as comfortable as possible.’
Killer: Renal cell carcinoma accounts for more than 80 per cent of kidney cancers in the UK
Both pazopanib and sunitinib are approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for treatment of metastatic (advanced) kidney cancer.
The trial of 168 patients gave half the patients pazopanib for ten weeks and half sunitinib, then changed them over for ten weeks after a two-week gap.
The results showed that 70 per cent of patients preferred pazopanib.
Professor Hawkins says: ‘Both drugs have side effects, but patients didn’t feel as fatigued with pazopanib.
'A sore mouth is another side effect and patients experienced this far less on Votrient. These drugs are taken long term, not just for a couple of days, and the ability to eat and enjoy food is crucial if you are unwell.’
Side effects of sore hands and feet were also reduced with pazopanib.
‘These drugs are giving on average around two extra years of life,’ says the professor.
‘They can be taken as long as doctors think they help the patient.’