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Liver Cancer Drug Raises Blood Pressure

Patients taking Nexavar need to be monitored closely, study says.

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  • (SOURCE: Lancet Oncology, news release, Jan. 21, 2008)

    TUESDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A drug that prolongs the lives of patients with kidney or liver cancer also increases the risk of developing high blood pressure.

    Patients taking Nexavar (sorafenib) need to be carefully monitored and treated, said the authors of a study appearing in the Jan. 22 online issue of Lancet Oncology.

    Nexavar is an anti-angiogenesis drug, meaning it fights cancer by cutting off a tumor's blood supply.

    It was approved in 2005 to treat advanced kidney cancer and in 2007 to treat the most common form of liver cancer that can't be surgically removed (unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC).

    In clinical testing, Nexavar improved overall survival by 44 percent among people with HCC. Median overall survival was 10.7 months among those treated with the drug, versus 7.9 months among those who took a placebo. This was considered a major inroad against one of the most voracious cancers.

    Nexavar is also being assessed to treat small-cell lung cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma.

    Earlier trials, however, had shown a 16 percent to 42.6 percent incidence of hypertension in patients taking the drug. If not properly controlled, hypertension can lead to strokes and heart attacks, as well as kidney failure.

    For this paper, researchers at the State University of New York Stony Brook conducted a meta-analysis of published clinical trials on Nexavar.

    In all, nine studies involving 4,599 patients published between January 2006 and July 2007 were analyzed.

    There was a 23.4 percent incidence of all-grade hypertension, and a 5.7 percent incidence of high-grade hypertension.

    This is not the first time hypertension has been associated with an angiogenesis inhibitor. Several other drugs in this category, including Avastin (bevacizumab) and Sutent (sunitinib), have also raised blood pressure in patients.

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