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FDA Approves New Treatment for Rare Type of Pancreatic Cancer

SILVER SPRING, Md., May 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Afinitor (everolimus) to treat patients with progressive neuroendocrine tumors located in the pancreas (PNET) that cannot be removed by surgery or that have spread to other parts of the body (metastatic).  


Neuroendocrine tumors found in the pancreas are slow-growing and rare. It is estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 new cases in the United States each year.

"Patients with this cancer have few effective treatment options," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Oncology Drug Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Afinitor has demonstrated the ability to slow the growth and spread of neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas."

The safety and effectiveness of Afinitor was established in a clinical trial in 410 patients with metastatic (late-stage) or locally advanced (disease that could not be removed with surgery) disease.  Patients in the study were selected to receive Afinitor or placebo (sugar pill). The trial was designed to measure the length of time a patient lived before their disease spread or worsened (progression-free survival).

In patients treated with Afinitor, the median length of time they lived without the cancer spreading or worsening was 11 months compared with 4.6 months in patients who received placebo.  Patients who received placebo were able to receive Afinitor if their disease worsened.  

In patients treated with Afinitor for neuroendocrine pancreatic tumors, the most commonly reported side effects included inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis), rash, diarrhea, fatigue, swelling (edema), stomach (abdominal) pain, nausea, fever, and headache.

Afinitor is also approved to treat patients with kidney cancer (advanced renal cell carcinoma) after they fail treatment with Sutent (sunitinib) or Nexavar (sorafenib); and  patients with subependymal giant cell astrocytoma (a type of brain cancer) associated with tuberous sclerosis (a disease that causes tumors in various parts of the body), who cannot be treated by surgery.  

Afinitor has another trade name, Zortress, and is approved to treat certain adult patients to prevent organ rejection after a kidney transplant. Zortress has a different safety profile in these patients.  

Afinitor is marketed by East Hanover, N.J.-based Novartis.

For more information:

FDA: Office of Oncology Drug Products

FDA: Approved Drugs: Questions and Answers

NCI: Pancreatic Cancer

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Media Inquiries: Erica Jefferson, 301-796-4988,

Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration
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