Can you tell me about a drug called Sumitinib?

1 answer | Last updated: Dec 03, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Can you tell me a little about the new drug for renal cancer called Sumitinib?

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Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for's coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions.

Sunitinib malate (brand name Sutent) is a breakthrough drug approved by the FDA in 2006 to treat advanced renal cell carcinoma, or kidney cancer. Like sorafenib (brand name Nexavar), another new biologic treatment for renal cell cancer, sunitinib is a biologic therapy that suppresses tumor growth. Both drugs stop tumor cells from dividing, or proliferating, and block the formation of new blood vessels that provide the nutrients to feed the tumor. Advanced kidney cancer is very difficult to treat, and sunitinib and sorafen give oncologists a new option to consider.

Until recently, standard treatment for renal cell cancer was cytokine treatment with interferon alpha or interleukin-2, both of which work by stimulating the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. Sunitinib was shown in clinical trials to shrink tumors more effectively than interferon alpha or interleukin-2, and has quickly become the standard of care for patients with advanced kidney cancer.

In late 2007, another biologic tumor-suppressing drug, temsirolimus (brand name Torisel), was approved for renal cell carcinoma. In clinical trials tensirolimus showed a greater survival rate than sunitinib, so it may become the first choice of oncologists in some cases. Both drugs have side effects; a study finding presented at the 2008 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that 15 percent of patients with renal cell carcinoma or gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) who were treated with sunitinib (Sutent) experienced heart failure, a rate higher than previously recognized. Patients who take Torisel are at risk for anemia and increased blood sugar.