updated 3/30/2009 4:42:24 PM ET 2009-03-30T20:42:24

Federal health officials are approving a drug from Novartis to treat patients whose kidney cancer has returned after treatment with older drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration says cancer patients tested with Novartis' Afinitor lived more than twice as long without tumor growth than those who didn't receive the drug.

Kidney cancer is resistant to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and is generally fatal within five years. About 13,000 patients died from the disease last year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Afinitor works by blocking a protein that helps cancer cells divide and grow. The drug is intended for patients who have already taken cancer drugs from Pfizer and Bayer.

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