Fatal Adverse Events with Pazopanib [Votrient], Sorafenib [Nexavar], and Sunitinib [Sutent]

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February 12, 2012 – From an article published in Medscape Oncology News on February 9, 2012, we learn the following (article in full, all rights resting with Medscape Oncology News):

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February 9, 2012— New details on the risk for fatal adverse events associated with several targeted cancer drugs have come from a large meta-analysis of clinical trials, which was published online February 6 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The drugs investigated were pazopanib (Votrient, GlaxoSmithKline), which is approved for use in renal cell carcinoma; sorafenib (Nexavar, Bayer & Onyx), which is approved for use in renal cell carcinoma and hepatocellular cancer; and sunitinib (Sutent, Pfizer), which is approved for use in hepatocellular cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumors. All 3 products are vascular endothelial growth-factor (VEGF) receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

The meta-analysis, which examined data on 4679 patients from 10 clinical trials, found that these 3 drugs were associated with fatal adverse events at a rate that was about twice that seen in the placebo groups. The crude incidence of fatal adverse events was 1.5% in patients taking these drugs, compared with 0.7% in patients in the placebo or control groups (relative risk [RR], 2.23; P = .023).

The most common cause of death was hemorrhage; the second most common was myocardial ischemia. Liver failure and congestive heart failure were also reported.

Senior author Toni Choueiri, MD, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, said that clinicians need to be aware of the risks associated with these drugs.

“There is no doubt that for the average patient, these drugs have benefits,” Dr. Choueiri said in a statement. In fact, these drugs represent a major step forward in the treatment of several malignancies, and they have led to significant improvements in patient outcomes.

However, they are associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing fatal drug-related events, and “practitioners must be aware of the risks associated with their use and must provide rigorous monitoring to continue to improve patient outcomes,” the researchers note.

“While the absolute incidence of these fatal side effects is very small, the relative risks are higher,” Dr. Choueiri noted. In addition, the patients in this meta-analysis were participating in clinical trials and all had adequate organ function at study entry, so the overall incidence and risk for unreported fatal adverse events could be higher in common medical practice.

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Joseph Gut - thasso Ph.D.; Professor in Pharmacology and Toxicology. Senior expert in theragenomic and personalized medicine and individualized drug safety. Senior expert in pharmaco- and toxicogenetics. Senior expert in human safety of drugs, chemicals, environmental pollutants, and dietary ingredients.

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