New Kidney Cancer Rx May Improve Survival

Nivolumab may improve overall kidney cancer survival more than standard treatment

(RxWiki News) A new medication could be a game-changer for treating advanced kidney cancer.

In a recent study, Bristol-Myers Squibb's new drug nivolumab (brand name Opdivo, recently approved for certain skin and lung cancers) was found to improve the survival of patients with a common type of kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

"[This finding is] likely to change the treatment of patients with advanced kidney cancer, whose disease has progressed on prior treatment," said lead study author Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD, a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, in a press release. "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."

RCC is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. According to Dr. Sharma and colleagues, RCC causes more than 100,000 deaths worldwide each year. Globally, the five-year survival rate for RCC is only 12.1 percent.

The current standard treatment for advanced kidney cancer is a medication called everolimus (brand name Afinitor).

For this study, Dr. Sharma and team looked at 821 patients with RCC from 24 countries. All had received prior treatment but still showed signs of disease.

These patients were split into two groups and treated with either nivolumab or everolimus. They were followed for a minimum of 15 months.

About 25 percent of the patients on nivolumab saw a shrinkage of tumors, while only about 5.4 percent of the patients on everolimus saw the same.

Fewer serious side effects were also reported in the patients on nivolumab (19 percent), compared to the patients on everolimus (37 percent).

The median survival rate was around six months longer for those on nivolumab (25 months compared to 19.6 months), Dr. Sharma and team found.

This study was published Sept. 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Bristol-Myers Squibb funded this research. Several study authors disclosed ties to Bristol-Meyers Squibb.

Review Date: 
September 30, 2015