Treating patients with advanced kidney cancer before surgery with a combination of targeted therapies is safe, effective and may prolong their lives, researchers said on Thursday.
Scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, who presented their findings at a conference in Prague, studied the effect of giving the drugs bevacizumab and erlotinib to patients before their tumour was removed.
“The main aim of this study was to look at the efficacy and safety of using these targeted therapies before surgery, and our results have shown that there were few side effects and that it prolonged the survival of our patients,” said Eric Jonasch, a professor of medicine at the university.
Other studies have focused on the impact of giving the drug combo to patients after surgery but Jonasch and his team said their trial of 20 patients is the first to investigate the pre-surgical effect.
Bevacizumab, which is sold under the name Avastin, was developed by U.S. biotech group Genentech and its partner Roche Holding AG. It is an anti-angiogenesis drug which starves the tumour of blood supply.
Erlotinib, which is marketed by Roche as Tarceva, is a drug that blocks a signal which tells cells to divide.
“Our findings indicate that this treatment approach might be applicable to a wide range of patients with renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) and that we might be able to use systemic treatment, before surgery, to treat many more people with metastatic disease successfully,” Jonasch said in a statement.
The patients received bevacizumab intravenously once every two weeks for four weeks and took erlotinib orally every day for eight weeks before they had surgery.
Each year, 190,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer. Most cases occur in developed countries and the disease is twice as common in men than women. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, the five-year survival rate is very low.