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Drug Helps Asians Battling Liver Cancer

Sorafenib boosts survival, even when tumor is linked to hepatitis B, researchers say

TUESDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The drug sorafenib increased overall survival in Asian-Pacific patients with advanced liver cancer, according to the results of a study that included 226 patients in China, South Korea and Taiwan.

The 150 patients in the treatment group received 400 milligrams of sorafenib (Nexavar) twice a day in six-week cycles, while those in the control group received a placebo.

Median overall survival was 6.5 months for those in the treatment group and 4.2 months for those in the control group. The study also found that sorafenib prolonged the time to progression and disease control rate.

Side effects among those taking the drug included skin reactions on the hands and feet, diarrhea and fatigue. The findings appear online and in the January print issue of The Lancet Oncology.

Sorefenib has been approved in Europe and the United States for treatment of advanced liver cancer, but approval in China was dependent on results from a study in Asian-Pacific patients, who account for 75 percent of liver cancer cases worldwide, according to background information in the study. Liver cancer is associated with chronic infection with hepatitis B (HBV), which is common in the Asian-Pacific region. Many patients are diagnosed when they have advanced liver cancer, which means that surgery is an option for only 20 percent of patients.

"Although other studies suggest that sorafenib might be less efficacious in patients with HBV, we do not agree with these conclusions, and believe that the large proportion of patients with HBV enrolled in our study supports the efficacy of sorafenib in this important patient population," wrote Dr. Ann-Lii Cheng, of the National Taiwan University Hospital, and colleagues.

More information

The American Liver Foundation has more about liver cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet Oncology, news release, Dec. 16, 2008

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