Sutent May Hold Off Relapse in SCLC

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) usually responds well to initial chemotherapy, but frequently relapses within a short time. Maintenance therapy with the drug sunitinib (Sutent) may delay relapse and improve outcomes for SCLC patients, results from a recent phase II clinical trial suggest. Patients with extensive-stage SCLC who had responded to initial chemotherapy were given either Sutent as maintenance therapy or a placebo. Sutent, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) that blocks several proteins involved in SCLC, prolonged the time without cancer progression (3.2 months on average, compared to 2.3 months in the placebo-treated patients). Patients receiving Sutent also tended to have longer overall survival (8.9 months vs 6.9 months with placebo), although this finding was not clear enough to determine whether it was due to chance. The survival difference between patient groups may have been smaller because placebo-treated patients whose cancer relapsed were allowed to switch to Sutent, suggesting that Sutent may actually have more definite effects on patient survival.