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New Cancer Drug Boosts Blood Pressure
Date:1/3/2008

But doctors say sunitinib's benefits outweigh its risks

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The new anti-cancer drug sunitinib (Sutent) can cause high blood pressure in patients with kidney cancer, French researchers report.

The finding echoes the results of a study published last month that found the drug increased blood pressure and the risk of heart failure among patients with stomach cancer.

"Patients taking sunitinib and other similar [drugs] may experience increases in blood pressure of 15 to 25 percent," said study author Dr. Michel Azizi, a professor of vascular medicine at Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris. The report is published in the Jan. 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, Azizi and his colleagues used home blood pressure monitoring, with the results sent automatically by telephone to the hospital. They found an immediate and marked increase in blood pressure in 14 patients with kidney cancer who were treated with 50 milligrams of sunitinib a day for four weeks.

The increase in blood pressure was not seen when blood pressure was measured in a physician's office, Azizi said. "It started within four to seven days of the first cycle of sunitinib, disappeared within two weeks of treatment discontinuation, and recurred during the following treatment cycle," he said.

Sunitinib works by blocking the activity of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Besides sunitinib, other so-called VEGF inhibitors have been developed, including bevacizumab (Avastin). Although these drugs are promising in fighting several types of cancer, they are associated with side effects, including high blood pressure, bleeding, gastrointestinal perforation, wound-healing complications and clotting, Azizi noted.

Azizi thinks that, despite the increase in blood pressure, the cancer-fighting benefits of sunitinib outweigh the risks. Sunitinib and similar dr
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