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New era drug extends cancer patients’ lives


A pill described as a “new era” for cancer treatments can extend the lives of patients with advanced kidney cancer by more than two years, it has been revealed.

Sunitinib was made available on the NHS this year after it was found to be more effective than traditional treatment in a typical clinical setting.

Interferon-alpha (IFN alpha) was previously used to treat metastatic, or spreading, kidney cancer, but injecting the drug affects the immune system and can result in serious side-effects, including fatigue, nausea and increased numbers of infections.

A phase III study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at the life expectancy of patients taking sunitinib compared with those on interferon-alpha.

The research, including trials on patients from South Wales Cancer Institute in Swansea, showed that survival for sunitinib patients given no further treatment after they stopped taking the drug was 28.1 months, compared with 14.1 months for those on interferon-alpha (IFN alpha).

Professor John Wagstaff, from the institute, said: “These data herald a new era in the treatment of metastatic kidney cancer in this country and throughout the world.”

Kidney cancer is diagnosed in more than 7,000 people in the UK each year and can be hard to treat. The disease causes about 3,600 deaths per year.

Copyright Press Association 2009

Journal of Clinical Oncology

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