Nav: Home

New drug improves outcome in treatment resistant kidney cancer

September 28, 2015

BOSTON -- A new drug has been found superior to current treatments in slowing the growth of advanced kidney cancer in patients who became resistant to the first-line therapies that had kept it in check, according to results from a clinical trial led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Such patients are currently treated with everolimus (Affinitor), a second-line therapy, which can halt the cancer's growth for a time. But the new drug, cabozantinib, largely outperformed everolimus in the trial, according to a report published online in the New England Journal of Medicine and showed signs that it may prolong survival as well.

Cabozantinib controlled the cancer in the drug-resistant patients more effectively than everolimus. Moreover, the early results show a "strong trend indicating that survival may be improved in patients receiving cabozantinib compared to standard therapy," said Toni K. Choueiri, MD, clinical director of the Genitourinary Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the first author of the report. He said the drug has received breakthrough therapy designation by the Food and Drug Administration, and may become available soon for patients if it is approved. Choueiri is simultaneously presenting the results at the European Cancer Congress 2015 in Vienna on Saturday, September 26, at 4:20 p.m. in Hall D1 at the Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Centre.

Whether the drug prolongs overall survival, and for how long, will not be known until more follow-up data are available.

Cabozantinib, an oral small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is being compared with everolimus in a phase 3 trial called METEOR, sponsored by Exelixis, Inc., the California company that makes cabozantinib. The main end point is progression-free survival - how long the cancer is held in check before it starts growing again.

Progression-free survival was a median of 7.4 months in patients receiving cabozantinib, versus 3.8 months with everolimus. The rate of progression or death was 42 percent lower with cabozantinib than everolimus. Cabozantinib shrank tumors effectively in 21 percent of patients, while everolimus' response rate was 5 percent.

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form of kidney cancer, diagnosed annually in more than 330,000 patients worldwide and causing over 140,000 deaths. In the United States, those numbers are 61,560 and 14,080.

The multi-center trial enrolled 658 patients with clear cell renal carcinoma, which makes up over 80 percent of people with kidney cancer. The patients had advanced or metastatic renal cell carcinoma whose disease had worsened following first-line therapy with drugs that target the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR). Overproduction of the growth factor is a major driver of kidney cancer. Drugs that target VEGFR are standard therapy for advanced disease and can be very effective initially, but in many cases tumor cells find ways to escape the drugs' attack.

"Cabozantinib is a new drug that targets possible escape mechanisms, including the tyrosine kinases MET and AXL," said Choueiri, who is also the kidney cancer center director at Dana-Farber. The trial results show that cabozantinib "is able to shrink tumors and slow down tumor growth much better than current standard therapy in patients who previously received VEGFR-targeted drugs," he added.

Choueiri said cabozantinib is also being studied as a potential first-line treatment and is in early trials combining cabozantinib with immune checkpoint inhibitors.
Senior author of the report is Robert J. Motzer, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

The research was funded by Exelixis, Inc.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is world-renowned for its leadership in adult and pediatric cancer treatment and research. Designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), it is one of the largest recipients among independent hospitals of NCI and National Institutes of Health grant funding. For more information, go to

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Related Cancer Articles:

Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
Cancer genomics continued: Triple negative breast cancer and cancer immunotherapy
Continuing PLOS Medicine's special issue on cancer genomics, Christos Hatzis of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., USA and colleagues describe a new subtype of triple negative breast cancer that may be more amenable to treatment than other cases of this difficult-to-treat disease.
Metabolite that promotes cancer cell transformation and colorectal cancer spread identified
Osaka University researchers revealed that the metabolite D-2-hydroxyglurate (D-2HG) promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition of colorectal cancer cells, leading them to develop features of lower adherence to neighboring cells, increased invasiveness, and greater likelihood of metastatic spread.
UH Cancer Center researcher finds new driver of an aggressive form of brain cancer
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers have identified an essential driver of tumor cell invasion in glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer that can occur at any age.
UH Cancer Center researchers develop algorithm to find precise cancer treatments
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers developed a computational algorithm to analyze 'Big Data' obtained from tumor samples to better understand and treat cancer.
New analytical technology to quantify anti-cancer drugs inside cancer cells
University of Oklahoma researchers will apply a new analytical technology that could ultimately provide a powerful tool for improved treatment of cancer patients in Oklahoma and beyond.
Radiotherapy for lung cancer patients is linked to increased risk of non-cancer deaths
Researchers have found that treating patients who have early stage non-small cell lung cancer with a type of radiotherapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy is associated with a small but increased risk of death from causes other than cancer.
Cancer expert says public health and prevention measures are key to defeating cancer
Is investment in research to develop new treatments the best approach to controlling cancer?
UI Cancer Center, Governors State to address cancer disparities in south suburbs
The University of Illinois Cancer Center and Governors State University have received a joint four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to help both institutions conduct community-based research to reduce cancer-related health disparities in Chicago's south suburbs.
Leading cancer research organizations to host international cancer immunotherapy conference
The Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research will join forces to sponsor the first International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York, Sept.

Related Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".