October 30, 2007 / 12:05 AM / 12 years ago

Pfizer's axitinib shows promise in kidney cancer

LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) experimental drug axitinib has shown promise for treating patients with advanced kidney cancer, slowing the disease for six months or more in some cases, according to a study published on Tuesday.

The findings from the company’s Phase II trials show that of 52 patients in the study 23 had complete or partial responses to the drug, a French team reported in the journal Lancet.

“The objective response and time to progression in our study suggest that axitinib might be a promising drug in the treatment of patients with metastatic renal-cell cancer, although a randomised controlled trial is needed to confirm this finding,” Oliver Rixe of the University of Paris and colleagues said.

Around 200,000 people a year are diagnosed with the disease that mostly strikes older people and which rarely sees new treatments.

Axitinib, from a class of drugs known as VEGF inhibitors, works by starving tumours of blood and nutrients necessary for growth, a process called anti-angiogenesis. Genentech’s DNA.N widely-used cancer drug Avastin was the first approved medicine to work in this way.

The most common adverse side effects in trials of axitinib as a single agent have included fatigue, protein in the urine, stomatitis/mucositis, raised blood pressure and diarrhoea.

In the French study the cancer of 22 patients did not worsen for at least eight weeks, including 13 people who remained stable for 24 weeks or longer, the researchers said said.

The findings come after the world’s biggest drugmaker in June said axitinib showed enough promise in a mid-stage trial against advanced pancreatic cancer to warrant continued development of the medicine in large late-stage studies.

Pfizer is hoping that its growing number of experimental cancer drugs will prove successful and make it a force in oncology, which has been a highly lucrative area for rival drugmakers such as Switzerland’s Roche Holding AG ROG.VX.

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