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Two Drugs Now Approved to Treat Pancreatic Cancers

Aschenbrenner, Diane S. MS, RN

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: September 2011 - Volume 111 - Issue 9 - p 23
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000405056.46195.85
Drug Watch

Diane S. Aschenbrenner is the course coordinator for undergraduate pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, MD. She also coordinates Drug Watch: dianea@son.jhmi.edu.

Two agents that belong to the class of drugs known as kinase inhibitors have now been approved to treat pancreatic tumors: sunitnib (Sutent) and everolimus (Afinitor).

Sunitnib is now approved to treat cancerous pancreatic tumors that can't be removed by surgery or that have metastasized. Sunitnib is an inhibitor of multiple tyrosine kinases, which are implicated in tumor growth, pathologic angiogenesis, and metastatic progression of cancer. The drug was already approved for the treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumor (a rare cancer of the stomach, bowel, or esophagus) and advanced renal cell cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration reports that the clinical trial that determined the efficacy of sunitnib in pancreatic-tumor treatment found that the drug prolonged the "median length of time [patients] lived without the cancer spreading or worsening" to 10.2 months, compared with 5.4 months among patients receiving a placebo.

In patients treated with sunitnib for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, the most commonly reported adverse effects are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anorexia, hypertension, energy loss, abdominal pain, changes in hair color, stomatitis, and neutropenia.

Everolimus had been approved to treat renal cell cancer and subependymal giant cell astrocytoma associated with tuberous sclerosis. Everolimus is now approved to treat progressive neuroendocrine tumors of pancreatic origin that are unresectable, locally advanced, or metastatic. The adverse effects most commonly seen in this population are stomatitis, rash, diarrhea, fatigue, edema, abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and headache.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.