Sunitinib works by blocking an enzyme in the body known as tyrosine kinase. This enzyme tells cancer cells to divide and grow. By blocking tyrosine kinase, sunitinib may slow or stop the growth of cancer cells, which can slow down how quickly the disease progresses.
Clinical Effects of Sunitinib
Sunitinib has been shown to extend survival in people with certain types of cancer in clinical trials. One measure of how well a cancer medication works is called "progression-free survival" (PFS). PFS is the period of time during treatment when the cancer does not get worse, or progress.
In clinical studies involving people with gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), a rare type of gastrointestinal cancer, people given sunitinib had an additional 18 months of PFS compared to people taking a placebo medication (a "sugar pill" with no active ingredients). Specifically, those taking sunitinib had 24.1 months without cancer progression, compared with 6 months for those taking the placebo. Everyone in the study had previously taken imatinib (Gleevec®) without an adequate response or could not take imatinib.
In clinical studies involving people with renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), people given sunitinib had an additional 25 months of PFS compared to people taking a different chemotherapy medicine (interferon-alpha). Specifically, people taking sunitinib survived 47.3 months without disease progression, compared to 22 months for those taking the other chemotherapy medication.
In clinical studies involving people with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNET), a form of pancreatic cancer, people given sunitinib had 10.2 months of PFS compared to 5.4 months for people given a placebo.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
SUTENT [package insert]. Research Triangle Park, NC: GlaxoSmithKline;2010 April.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed October 9, 2011.
Briggs GG, Freeman RK, Yaffe SJ. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. 8th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2008.
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