Targeted therapy with sunitinib against advanced thyroid cancer

8 Mar 2015

In patients with advanced thyroid cancer, sunitinib, a drug approved for treatment of several other cancers, showed significant cancer-fighting activity as reported by a new phase 2 clinical trial.

"Sunitinib can potentially be used as an effective adjunctive treatment in patients with advanced differentiated thyroid cancer," said Principal Investigator Kenneth Burman, MD, Chief of Endocrine at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

The drug is currently available for the treatment of advanced renal cell cancer and two other types of cancer under the brand name Sutent, from Pfizer. As a targeted therapy, sunitinib works by inhibiting multiple proteins in cancer cells, limiting cancer cell growth and division.

Sunitinib led to increased progression-free survival

Burman and his colleagues tested the treatment effect of sunitinib in 23 patients with advanced-stage differentiated thyroid cancer who had undergone at least one course of radioactive iodine treatment. They measured progression-free survival, the length of time that the tumor did not progress.


Because this was a Phase 2 clinical trial, there was no control group. The investigators compared their results against that of the control group from a recently published study in patients with the same type of cancer who received a placebo, or "dummy" pill. Compared with these controls, Burman and his group found that the progression-free survival with Sunitinib treatment in their study was significantly longer than without it. Further, the progression-free survival using Sunitinib was comparable to that previously reported for Sorafenib.

According to the study abstract, 83% of sunitinib-treated patients benefited from treatment, with either significant shrinkage of the tumors (partial response) or slowed disease progression (stable disease). 26% had a partial response to Sunitinib, and 57% had stable disease.

Mild or moderate side effects

"Sunitinib is not a cure but it appears from this study that it may slow the progression of disease," Burman said. He added that, in general, their patients tolerated the medicine fairly well, with the most commonly reported adverse events being mild or moderate.

According to Burman, sunitinib merits a larger, controlled, phase 3 trial for treatment of advanced differentiated thyroid cancer.


Source: Science Daily

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