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For people with metastatic kidney cancer that worsens after initial treatment, the investigational drug axitinib may produce better outcomes than Nexavar® (sorafenib). These results were presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Each year in the United States, more than 58,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer. Renal cell cancer is the most common type of kidney cancer.

For people with metastatic renal cell cancer (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body), targeted therapies such as Sutent® (sunitinib) and Nexavar® (sorafenib) can play an important role in treatment. New targeted therapies continue to be evaluated, and may provide additional options when the cancer progresses (worsens) after initial treatment.

Axitinib is an investigational drug that targets certain proteins (VEGF receptors 1, 2, and 3) involved in the development of new blood vessels and the growth and spread of cancer.

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To compare axitinib with Nexavar in the second-line treatment of metastatic renal cell cancer, researchers conducted a Phase III clinical trial. The study enrolled 723 patients with metastatic, clear-cell, renal cell cancer.  All patients had experienced cancer progression after initial treatment that included Sutent, Avastin® (bevacizumab), Torisel® (temsirolimus), or cytokine therapy.  Study participants were assigned to treatment with either axitinib or Nexavar.

  • Progression-free survival was 6.7 months among patients treated with axitinib compared with 4.7 months among patients treated with Nexavar.
  • A response to treatment (tumor shrinkage) occurred in 19.4% of patients treated with axinitib and 9.4% of patients treated with Nexavar.
  • Side effects that were more common in the axitinib group included high blood pressure, fatigue, voice disorders, and thyroid problems. Side effects that were more common in the Nexavar group included hand-food syndrome, rash, hair loss, and anemia.

These results suggest that axitinib may be more effective than Nexavar in the second-line treatment of metastatic, clear-cell, renal cell cancer.

Reference: Rini BI, Escudier B, Tomczak P et al. Axitinib versus sorafenib as second-line therapy for metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC): results of phase III AXIS trial. Paper presented at: 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology; June 3-7, 2011; Chicago, IL. Abstract 4503.

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