Two papers, published on the New England Journal of Medicine, outlined there are two drugs, nivolumab (sold as Opdivo) and cabozantinib (sold as Cometriq), that have shown to work more efficiently for advanced kidney cancer than the standard treatment. These findings come ahead of the European Cancer Congress in Vienna, Austria.

The studies’ results “are significant and clinically meaningful to patients and health care professionals alike,”said Senior Researcher Padmanee Sharma, M.D., of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houton,  in a meeting news release. According to Shama, these findings may “change the treatment of patients with advanced kidney cancer, whose disease has progressed on prior treatment.”


Many cancer researchers maintain that the successful development of personalized medicine will largely depend on the merging of clinical and molecular data. Credit: Corbis/Fotolia

Nivolumab belongs to a group of drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors, which fight cancer by unleashing the patient’s own immune system. About 821 patients with advanced kidney cancer were divided into two groups. The group that received nivolumab lived longer than those in a comparison group taking the usual treatment, everolimus (sold as Afinitor).

Of all who got nivolumab, 25 percent showed to have their tumors shrunk significantly and survived for 25 more months, while only 5 percent responded to everolimus and survived for 19.6 more months. Patients who were treated with nivolumab were also more likely to have lasting responses and fewer side effects like fatigue, nausea, and severe itching.

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The drug is not available yet, although Dr. Sharma expects it to quickly become a new treatment for these patients.

“Although we cannot speculate at this time on when nivolumab might enter the clinic, we hope that this study will quickly lead to approval of nivolumab as a standard of care therapy for these patients,” reportedly said Dr Sharma.

On the other side, the other drug, cabozantinib (sold as Cometriq), was also tested against everolimus and proved to be more effective at treating cancer, though the study has not gone long enough to see if it boosts patient’s survival.

The time that passed without worsening of the disease was 7.4 months with cabozantinib, whereas it was 3.8 months for everolimus. In addition, about 21 percent of patients responded to cabozantinib, compared with 5 percent to everolimus.

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be around 61,560 new cases of kidney cancer and 14,080 deaths in the United States by the end of this year. The risks include smoking, certain chemical exposures, obesity, high blood pressure, genetic mutations and heredity.

Source: The New England Journal of Medicine