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New Cancer Drug Tied to Heart Problems
Date:12/13/2007

Sutent linked to hypertension, heart events in patients battling stomach cancer

THURSDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The new and powerful cancer drug sunitinib (Sutent), which fights stomach tumors, can also create heart problems for some patients, a new study finds.

All patients taking sunitinib, but especially those who have risks for heart disease, need careful monitoring and treatment for high blood pressure and other signs of heart problems, researchers say.

"All drugs have risks and benefits," noted lead researcher Dr. Ming Hui Chen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a cardiologist at Children's Hospital Boston. "This drug is lifesaving for people with metastatic, gastrointestinal stromal tumors," she added.

But it is important for both doctors and patients to be aware that sunitinib can have cardiac effects, Chen noted.

"The people at greatest risk are the people who have a history of coronary artery disease," Chen said. "Aggressive control of blood pressure in these patients is very important."

In a statement released Thursday, sunitinib's maker, Pfizer Inc., agreed that these heart risks do exist. However, they added that the cardiovascular events "were medically manageable in most patients and underscore the importance of having a collaborative team of healthcare professionals working together to appropriately manage patients, who have limited available options" in treating their cancer.

The new, collaborative study was supported by Children's Hospital Boston; the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Thomas Jefferson University; the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the Finnish Heart Foundation; and the American Heart Association.

Sunitinib is one of a family of new and powerful anti-cancer drugs called tyrosine-kinase inhibitors, which target key molecular pathways thought to encourage tumor growth. Other drugs in this
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