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Cancer Connect: Doctors have reported that maintenance therapy using Sutent® (sunitinib) delays the time to cancer progression and improves survival in patients with extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer (SCLC).  These encouraging results were recently reported in the online March 3, 2015 Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Small-cell lung cancer is a fast-growing type of lung cancer and accounts for approximately 25%-30% of all lung cancers.  In order to improve patient outcomes, researchers are developing novel treatments and exploring new methods of using existing therapies. One approach is proactive maintenance where smaller drug doses are administered on a regular schedule over more prolonged periods of time to avoid toxicity.

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) as well as for advanced renal cell (kidney) cancers. Since Sutent inhibits multiple targets of interest in SCLC including tyrosine kinase, vascular endothelial growth factor receptors, platelet-derived growth factor receptors, Flt-3, and Kit, doctors have begun its evaluation.

In this clinical study, 95 patients with extensive SCLC who had either stable disease or a partial or complete response to standard initial chemotherapy were treated with either Sutent or placebo as maintenance therapy until SCLC progressed and directly compared.

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The time to cancer progression was 3.7 months for Sutent compared to 2.1 months for placebo, and 3 patients taking Sutent achieved a complete response compared with none taking placebo. In addition, 13 patients initially assigned to placebo were permitted to cross over to Sutent treatment after their cancer progressed. Ten of these patients attained prolonged disease control, and 3 achieved a complete response.

This study demonstrates a therapeutic benefit for a small subset of patients with SCLC.  Use of Sutent should be evaluated in combination with other drugs and earlier in patients with limited-stage SCLC.

Reference: J. Clin. Oncol. 2015 March 3 [doi:10.1200/jco.2014.57.3105]).

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