Studies of drugs that show each works better compared with the standard treatment for advanced kidney cancer could pave way to changes in treating the disease, experts said at the European Cancer Congress in Vienna, Austria.
The study of Bristol-Myers Squibb's immune system-boosting drug Opdivo was halted before schedule because patients who received the drug lived longer compared with those taking Novartis' Afinitor, the current standard of care. The study was stopped for ethical reasons so the patients in the comparison group could receive Opdivo.
Another drug, Exelixis' Cometriq was also tested against Afinitor and was proven more effective at reducing the progression of cancer. It reduced cancer growth or death by 42 percent compared with the standard treatment and overall survival showed 33 percent reduced risks of death compared with Afinitor.
The study, through has not yet been conducted long enough and the data were still considered immature to determine if the drug could prolong survival.
The positive data from both studies, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, could likely secure the two drugs with approval next year as treatment for second-line kidney cancer sufferers.
Cometriq is already being prescribed as treatment for a rare form of thyroid cancer and Opdivo is approved as treatment for lung cancer and skin cancer.
Robert Motzer, a kidney cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said that the findings were a major advance capable of changing the field and would likely impact kidney cancer patients worldwide.
Prior to 2005, patients who have advanced form of kidney cancer only live between 10 to 12 months on average but seven new drugs for the illness have been approved ever since improving the length of patient's survival to about 30 months.
"The drugs tested in these two trials both appear to work better than everolimus - one of the options available if the first treatment fails - and with fewer side-effects," Alan Worsley, from Cancer Research UK commented on the studies. "Cabozantinib, a targeted therapy, and nivolumab, an immunotherapy, fight cancer in very different ways, so making either available for use in the clinic will greatly expand the arsenal for clinicians to treat kidney cancer patients."
The American Cancer Society says that about 61,560 incidence of new cancer are expected in the U.S. this year. The disease is also anticipated to cause over 14,000 deaths.
Although the exact causes of kidney cancer are not exactly known, those who smoke, are exposed to certain chemicals, have weight problems, sufferers of high blood pressure and those with family history of the disease are likely to develop the condition.