The rate of risk reduction was so high that the trial's Data Safety and Monitoring Board stopped the trial early so that everyone could benefit, the researchers noted. In addition, there was no difference between people getting the medications and placebo in terms of side effects requiring hospitalization, gastrointestinal side effects, cardiovascular side effects or temporary hearing loss, a rare side effect of DMFO.
In the second study, the researchers showed that sunitinib (Sutent) appears effective in slowing tumor growth and cutting the risk of metastases in patients with hepatocellular liver cancer, researchers report.
Sutent, a member of a family of cancer drugs that also includes Gleevec (imatinib), has proven effective against kidney cancer and a type of malignancy called gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Recent studies have also linked Sutent to higher heart risks, so experts say cancer patients and their doctors must weigh its risks and benefits.
The new study focused on hepatocellular liver cancer. "Hepatocellular cancer is a very challenging cancer to deal with," lead researcher Dr. Andrew Zhu, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School said during the Monday afternoon teleconference. "It is a very common cancer worldwide, and it is the third leading cause of cancer mortality," he said. "The cancer most likely results from having had a hepatitis B infection."
The prognosis associated with this cancer is very poor, Zhu noted. "The average survival is six to eight months," he said.
In the study, 34 patients with advanced liver cancer were given Sutent daily for four weeks with two weeks off before the next round of treatment. Sutent works by targeting receptors in cancer cell
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