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Is Sutent (sunitinib) effective for kidney cancer?

Medically reviewed by Melisa Puckey, BPharm. Last updated on Dec 16, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

Is Sutent effective for kidney cancer?


Yes, Sutent (sunitinib) is effective when used for these specific types of kidney cancer:

  • Metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) that had not been previously treated.
  • Renal cell carcinoma when there has been a kidney removed and there is a high risk of the cancer recurring, then Sutent is used as an add-on therapy.

Metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) that had not been previously treated.

  • Clinical trials showed that the median progression-free survival was 11 months for patients on sunitinib compared to 5 months for the group treated with interferon alfa, which is often a standard treatment for metastatic renal-cell carcinoma.
  • Therefore sunitinib extended median progression-free survival by 6 months.
  • Health-related quality of life was better in the sunitinib group compared to the interferon alfa group according to quality of life questionnaires filled out by patients.

Add-on treatment for renal cell carcinoma, when there has been a kidney removed and there is a high risk of the cancer returning

  • In a clinical trial the median disease-free survival was 6.8 years for the group treated with sunitinib and was 5.6 years in the placebo group.
  • Therefore sunitinib extended the median disease-free survival by 1.2 years.
  • The sunitinib treatment group had a higher rate of adverse events compared to the placebo group. For adverse events of grade 3 or higher the sunitinib group had 63.4% and the placebo group had 21.7%.

How does Sutent work?

Sutent is a cancer treatment that works by stopping tumor cells multiplying rapidly and also by reducing the growth of new blood vessels in the tumor. Tumors need new blood vessels to grow, so by blocking new blood vessels inhibits tumor growth. Sutent has its effect by targeting receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) which are receptors on the surface of cells which are important for the development and progression of some types of cancer.

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