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According to an article recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the targeted agent Nexavar® (sorafenib) may provide anticancer activity in some patients with liver cancer and is extremely well tolerated.

The liver is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for over 500 functions. These include the secretion of glucose, proteins, vitamins, and fats; the production of bile; the processing of hemoglobin; and the detoxification of numerous substances.

The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which refers to the type of cell within the liver where the cancer originated. In advanced HCC cancer has spread from the liver to distant sites in the body.

Nexavar is an agent that is targeted against biological pathways that are believed to be associated with the growth and spread of cancer cells. Researchers from the United States, Europe, and Israelrecently conducted a clinical trial to evaluate Nexavar in patients with advanced HCC. This trial included 137 patients who had received no prior therapies and were unable to undergo the surgical removal of their cancer.

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  • Partial regression of cancer occurred in 8% of patients, and 33.6% of patients achieved a stabilization of their cancer.
  • Half of the patients had not experienced cancer progression at 4.2 months.
  • Half of the patients were alive at 9.2 months.
  • Serious side effects included fatigue, diarrhea, and hand-foot skin reactions (redness, pain, blisters on the palms of hands or soles of feet).
  • Eighteen genes were identified that predicted which patients would progress while on Nexavar and which patients would not progress.

The researchers concluded that Nexavar has anticancer activity in patients with advanced HCC and when added to a combination of agents, Nexavar may provide even further activity. A measure of 18 identified genes may help to predict which patients will benefit from Nexavar. Future clinical trials are planned to further evaluate Nexavar in the treatment of HCC.

Reference: Abou-Alfa G, Schwartz L, Ricci S, et al. Phase II Study of Sorafenib in Patients with Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2006; 24: 4293-4300.