Three newer chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of cancer may be linked to an increased risk of death.
According to a HealthDay News report on a recently published study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the newer drugs Nexavar (sorafenib, in generic form), Sutent (sunitinib), and Votrient (pazopanib) pose a slightly increased risk of death based on their performance in clinical trials. These drugs have been analyzed in 10 recent trials including more than 4,700 patients.
Each of these drugs is a specialized treatment for a specific cancer and are included in a class known as angiogenesis inhibitors. Nexavar is used most often in the treatment of kidney and liver cancers. Votrient is prescribed in the treatment of kidney cancer and Sutent is designed to stunt the spread of kidney cancer and gastrointestinal tumors. These drugs work by attempting to cut off the blood flow to a tumor at a specific site.
In the trials examined by the researchers at Dana-Farber Institute, the three drugs presented patients with a 1.5 percent risk of death as compared to a seven-tenths percent risk among patients taking another drug treating cancer or a placebo drug. Death was generally caused by one or a combination of several serious side effects among people taking either Nexavar, Sutent or Votrient: severe bleeding, heart attacks and heart failure. Some patients experienced liver failure while participating in the trial, another side effect which may have led to the death of that patient.
Researchers admitted there are still clinical benefits to taking these cancer-specific drugs. Despite those benefits, the study concludes patients and physicians should be made more aware of the risk of serious complications associated with their role in treating cancer, even if that risk is low, overall.
Previous studies on Nexavar have linked use of the drug to cardiovascular complications, marked by the onset of hypertension during the primary treatments with the chemotherapy drug. Prior to the studies of Nexavar, a study also linked the use of Sutent to hypertension. Failing to recognize the association between these targeted chemotherapy drugs and high blood pressure can lead to more serious cardiovascular side effects. Taking a drug in this class can raise the risk of high blood pressure by almost 25 percent, previous studies have noted, as compared to patients taking another form of cancer drug.
The Food and Drug Administration is monitoring the results of more than two dozen targeted cancer drug treatments, according to a database it maintains at cancer.gov. A drawback of targeted cancer treatments is the likelihood cells will develop a resistance to the drugs, effectively cancelling their effectiveness.