Kidney cancer patients often face difficult surgeries to remove or reduce the size of cancerous tumors, called nephron-sparing surgery (NSS). These patients often receive chemotherapy in an effort to shrink the tumor prior to NSS—called neoadjuvant therapy. Results from a new study published in the British Journal of Urology International show that the angiogenesis inhibitor Sutent, which is approved to treat metastatic kidney cancer, reduces tumor size in kidney cancer patients prior to NSS.

In the study, which was conducted at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, 12 patients (7 men and 5 women; average age 60 years) received two 28-day cycles of Sutent prior to NSS.  All patients had a reduction in tumor size during treatment, with the average tumor shrinking by 21%, and all patients were able to undergo NSS. At an average follow-up of 2 years, 10 of the 12 patients were alive, 1 patient died from metastatic kidney cancer, and none of the patients required dialysis. Because kidney cancer is so difficult to treat once it spreads beyond the kidney, surgery to remove the tumor usually represents the best hope to control the disease. A new drug that could improve the success of NSS would therefore be an important step forward in the treatment of kidney cancer.