Liver Cancer Drug Fails to Live Up to Early Promise

TUESDAY, July 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Although it looked promising in early studies, the drug everolimus didn't improve survival for people with advanced liver cancer in its latest trial, a new study found.

The findings from the phase 3 clinical trial are disappointing because earlier research suggested that everolimus (Afinitor) prevented tumor progression and improved survival for in advanced liver cancer. Normally, these patients can expect a median overall survival of less than one year.

The only drug currently shown to significantly improve survival of advanced liver cancer patients is sorafenib (Nexavar). But that drug's benefits are temporary and the cancer eventually progresses, according to background information in the new study.

The current study included 546 adults with advanced liver cancer whose disease progressed during or after treatment with sorafenib, or who could not take sorafenib. The patients were divided into two groups, with 362 given everolimus and 184 given a placebo.

There were no significant differences in overall survival between the two groups. There were 303 deaths (83.7 percent) in the everolimus group and 151 deaths (82.1 percent) in the placebo group. Median survival was 7.6 months with everolimus and 7.3 months with placebo.

The study appears in the July 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The results from [this study] extend the list of failed phase 3 studies in advanced [liver cancer], highlighting the challenge of developing effective therapies for this cancer," wrote study author Dr. Andrew Zhu, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, and colleagues.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about liver cancer.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, July 1, 2014

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