Targeted kidney cancer drugs may raise risk of fatal side effects

February 15, 2012

Treatment with three relatively new targeted kidney cancer drugs has been linked to a slightly elevated chance of fatal side effects, according to a new analysis led by scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.

Treatment with three relatively new targeted kidney cancer drugs has been linked to a slightly elevated chance of fatal side effects, according to a new analysis led by scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.

The authors added that the risk remains low, but should be taken into account by physicians and patients.

The incidence of fatal complications was 1.5% in patients who received any of the three drugs, which block the vascular endothelial growth factor tyrosine kinase receptors in cancer cells. This is compared to a 0.7% incidence in patients given standard treatments or placebos.

The study looked at sorafenib (Nexavar), sunitinib (Sutent), and pazopanib (Votrient). The authors, led by Toni Choueiri, MD, suggest that physicians give full consideration of the potential risk before using the drugs with patients at slightly high risk for bleeding or heart attacks. They also recommended that physicians and patients be aware of the risks and to consider whether those patients need to be closely monitored.

"There is no doubt for the average patient, these drugs have benefits and are FDA-approved for these indications," Dr. Choueiri said. "While the absolute incidence of these fatal side effects is very small, the relative risks are higher and patients and practitioners need to be aware of it."

Results from the study were published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (Feb. 6, 2012).

Dr. Choueiri has an advisory role with Pfizer, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, and Bayer.

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