Nexavar Superior to Sutent in Liver Cancer

Nexavar® (sorafenib) provides superior overall survival to Sutent® (sunitinib) in the treatment of hepatocellular (liver) cancer. These results were presented at the 2011 annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of primary liver cancer (cancer that begins in the liver). Factors that increase the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma include long-term, heavy alcohol use and chronic infection with hepatitis B or C viruses.

Until recently, there were few effective treatment options for patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. In 2007, however, results from a Phase III clinical trial indicated that the targeted therapy Nexavar® (sorafenib) prolonged survival among patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. Nexavar is approved for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma that is not able to be surgically removed. Other targeted therapies may also provide a benefit and are currently being evaluated in clinical trials.

Sutent® is a targeted therapy that works by blocking multiple molecular targets implicated in the growth, proliferation, and spread of cancer. It is currently approved for the treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) that have stopped responding to Gleevec® (imatinib), as well as for advanced renal cell (kidney) cancers.

Researchers from Asia conducted a phase III clinical trial directly comparing treatment with Nexavar and Sutent in hepatocellular carcinoma. The trial included patients with advanced cancer who had not received prior chemotherapy.

  • Overall survival was greater in the group treated with Nexavar (10 months) compared with the group treated with Sutent (8.1 months).
  • Progression-free survival and time to cancer progression were similar between the two treatment groups.
  • Side effects were greater among the group treated with Sutent, leading an independent data monitoring committee to stop the trial early based on safety issues.

These results indicate that Nexavar provides superior survival results compared with Sutent in the treatment of advanced hepatocellar carcinoma. Furthermore, the side effects associated with Sutent resulted in the trial closing earlier than planned.

Reference: Cheng A, Kang Y, Lin D, et al. Phase III trial of sunitinib (Su) versus sorafenib (So) in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Results from the 2011 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). July 3-7; Chicago, IL. Abstract #4000.

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