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Kidney cancer drug sunitinib hailed for 'extending life'

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Survival of patients with metastatic kidney cancer is greatly enhanced by sunitinib, according to international phase III trials reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The trials show that the drug, taken orally in pill form, extends the lives of patients by 28.1 months compared with 14.1 months for those on interferon-alpha (IFN alpha).

IFN is a widely used treatment that affects the immune system and causes serious side effects, including fatigue, nausea and a higher rate of secondary infections.

The results for sunitinib, which only became widely available on the NHS this year, reflect real clinical situations where patients only qualify for one line of treatment.

Kidney cancer is diagnosed in 7,000 people a year in the UK, and is difficult to treat, causing 3,600 deaths annually.

Professor John Wagstaff, from South Wales Cancer Institute in Swansea, whose patients took part in the trial said: ‘These data herald a new era in the treatment of metastatic kidney cancer in this country and throughout the world.’

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