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New Cancer Drugs May Up Death Risk

Filed February 9th, 2012 Julie

Three relatively new drugs used to treat cancer may actually increase a patient’s risk of death. According to a new analysis, the risk is low but should still be taken into account by patients and their physicians.

Investigators analyzed the findings of 10 clinical trials consisting of over 4,700 patients treated with Nexavar for liver and kidney cancer; Sutent for kidney cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumor; or Votrient for kidney cancer. Researchers explained these drugs are designed to halt the growth or spread of cancer by blocking the vascular endothelial growth factor tyrosine kinase receptors in cancer cells.

Patients who took any three of the targeted drugs experienced fatal complications 1.5 percent of the time, compared with 0.7 percent in patients who received standard treatments or placebos. The most common fatal complications were heart attack and heart failure. According to the report published in the Feb. 6 edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, liver failure was also reported.

“There is no doubt for the average patient, these drugs have benefits and are [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]-approved for these indications,” study leader Dr. Toni Choueiri said in the news release. “While the absolute incidence of these fatal side effects is very small, the relative risks are higher and patients and practitioners need to be aware of it.”

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