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New Biotech Drugs to Aid in Renal Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Two biotech drugs produced by Bayer AG, Pfizer and Onyx pharmaceuticals are astounding doctors with their effects on decreasing the progression// of metastatic kidney cancer.

The drugs, sunitinib (marketed under brand name Sutent) and sorafenib (brand name Nexavar) have been found to delay the progression of renal cell carcinoma by 3 to 6 months.

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common of all kidney cancers; 90 percent of kidney cancers diagnosed in the US are due to this cancer. It is responsible for 1.5 percent of all cancer deaths and around 30,000 cases of renal cell carcinoma are diagnosed every year.

The standard drugs used are interferon alfa and interleukin-2. Yet these drugs help in only 5 percent of cases where the tumors have spread. Hence the excitement over the new drugs.

Researchers from US, France and Poland, contributed to the results of the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The studies report how sunitinib when given to patients slowed the progression of the disease or development of tumors, to 11 months as against 5 months with interferon alfa. This was tested on 375 cancer patients.

In the case of sorafenib, half of 903 volunteers from 19 countries were put on the drug, while the other half received a placebo. Those who took the drug showed an extra period of around 3 months in delay of tumor growth.

The results were so effective that doctors are now thinking of placing the control patients on the drug.

Yet side effects of the drugs persist and can be severe in some patients. They include skin rashes, diarrhea and increased blood pressure.

Both drugs work by inhibiting the blood flowing to the tumor and hence limiting its growth.

"Kidney cancer has always been regarded as a cancer in which there was no progress," explains the lead author of the sunitinib study, Dr. Robert Motzer from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Ne w York City. "Based on a better understanding of tumor biology, this new medication (sunitinib) was developed, and it has remarkable activity that has resulted in a complete change in the way we treat this cancer."

Dr. James Brugarolas from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, another researcher, adds,” The two new drugs represent a major step forward in our fight against kidney cancer that was made possible by obtaining a greater understanding of the molecular genetics and biology of the disease. These drugs are clearly effective against the tumor.”

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