Experimental New Drug Combo Could Offer Hope For Kidney Cancer Patients

Researchers may have found a new combination of drugs in the fight to help those with metastatic kidney cancer. So successful were the trials, this combination may become part of the
standard procedure in treating this form of cancer.

The two drugs are avelumab, an immunotherapy drug and axitinib, a targeted agent. The trial used 886 patients with untreated, advanced renal cell carcinoma who received either the drug combination or the current drug, sunitinib, alone. Sunitinib is an orally ingested drug to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors on the kidneys and gastrointestinal system.

Axitinib, like Sunitinib is designed to starve the tumors by disrupting their blood supply. Avelumab activites immune t-cells allowing them to more effectively attack the cancer cells. Scientist found significant results in preventing the progression of these tumors with the combination of axitinib and avelumab over sunitinib. Patients who received the combination responded better than those did with sunitinib.

Data showed the median progression free survival rate, the time it took before the cancer grew worse, was 13.8 months in the combination group and 7.2 months in the sunitinib only groups.

These tests, however, focused on patients whose cancer cells tested positive for the PD-L1 checkpoint. This is blocked by avelumab and is not present in all kidney cancer patients. The progression free survival rate for the whole population, PD-L1 positive or negative, was close either way;13.8 months with the
combination versus 8.4 months on sunitinib alone.

Results showed 55.2 percent of patients with avelumab plus axitinib had tumors which shrunk as a result of the combination. Sunitinib patients had a 25.5 percent rate and these patients were also positive for PD-L1.

Researchers also found almost all patients suffering from some sort of side effects. 38.2 percent of patients developed immune-related adverse events many being thyroid disorders. This came to 107 patients.

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