Pfizer's Sutent "effective for intestinal tumor"

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LONDON (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc's new cancer drug Sutent is effective for patients suffering from advanced gastrointestinal tumors which do not respond to the standard treatment, researchers said on Wednesday.

The drug, which is also known as sunitinib, is used to treat advanced kidney cancer. But research published online by The Lancet medical journal shows it helps patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) resistant to imatinib, which is sold by Novartis AG under the name Gleevec.

The drug, which is also known as sunitinib, is used to treat advanced kidney cancer. But research published online by The Lancet medical journal shows it helps patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) resistant to imatinib, which is sold by Novartis AG under the name Gleevec.

"Although the exact molecular mechanisms might be multifactorial and require further study, our findings show that sunitinib is an effective therapeutic option for patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumour after failure of imatinib," said Dr George Demetri, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, Massachusetts, who led the research team.

Sutent is part of a new generation of targeted cancer drugs that are gentler on patients than chemotherapy, which can cause serious side effects as well as nausea.

GIST usually grows in the stomach or small intestine but it can occur in almost any part of the digestive track. Sutent is given when Gleevec does not stop the cancer from growing or in patients who cannot tolerate it.

The researchers tested the oral treatment on 312 patients in 11 countries. They were given Sutent or a dummy pill in six-week cycles with four weeks on treatment and two weeks off.

The study was cut short when patients on the treatment showed a much longer median time to tumour progression of 27.3 weeks compared to 6.4 in the placebo group.

"Time to tumour progression, progression-free survival, overall survival, and other measures of tumour response were significantly greater in patients treated with sunitinib than in those in the placebo group," said Demetri.

He added that side effects, which included fatigue, diarrhoea, skin discoloration and nausea, were tolerable.

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