A new drug for kidney cancer has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The drug, Afinitor (everolimus), is manufactured by Swiss drug manufacturer Novartis and is approved for use in the treatment of advanced kidney cancer in patients whose cancer has returned or progressed after undergoing previous treatments.
Afinitor is classified as a kinase inhibitor, and works by blocking the mTOR protein. mTOR assists in the division of cancer cells and the growth of blood vessels, and by blocking the protein, Afinitor is able to delay the growth and spread of cancer cells. Although Afinitor lagged behind Torisel from Wyeth, a drug with the same properties which was released earlier, it may possess an added marketing advantage since it is a daily pill to be taken orally. The pioneering Torisel is administered through weekly injections.
Afinitor was given approval for prescription to patients who have advanced renal cancer – the most common type of kidney cancer – and who did not respond to treatments using other kinase inhibitors like Sutent (sunitib) from Pfizer and Nexavar (sorafenib) from Bayer.
Novartis, however, intends to expand the use of Afinitor to other types of cancers. The drug has the potential to be used as treatment for other cancer types and is currently being tested for gastric cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma and tuberous sclerosis. If approved, annual sales for Afinitor may go beyond $1 billion. Pending these tests, the next step for Novartis is to apply for regulatory approval to sell Afinitor as a treatment for neuroendocrine tumors, rare tumors that mostly occur in the digestive system.
According to the agency, tests revealed that patients who were given Afinitor survived more than twice as long without tumor growth when compared to those who were not administered with the drug. A study by Novartis revealed that Afinitor delayed tumor growth almost five months.
Kidney cancer claimed the lives of around 13,000 Americans last year, according to the American Cancer Society.