Liver cancer drug Nexavar also slows down thyroid cancer: Study

Nexavar or generically known as sorafenib has been proven to help slow down inoperable liver cancer but now experts claim that it can also slow down thyroid cancer.

The study titled "Sorafenib in locally advanced or metastatic patients with radioactive iodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer: The phase III DECISION trial" has revealed that the liver cancer drug can also be effective in extending progression-free survival of thyroid cancer patients.

The details of the study were presented in a plenary session during the convention of the American Society of Clinical Oncology on Saturday. The study involved 417 patients with thyroid cancers that have not responded well to conventional radioactive and surgery treatment. Of 417 patients, 207 were subjected to sorafenib twice a day while the remaining patients received a placebo.

"Sorafenib significantly improved PFS compared with placebo in patients with progressive-RAI-refractory DTC. Tolerability was consistent with the known sorafenib safety profile," the study concluded.

The tumors of the patient who received Nexavar did not progress for approximately 10.8 months. However, the progression rate in those who took the placebo, averaged 5.8 months. This means that the drug was able to extend progression-free survival by at least five months.

"The DECISION trial was the first phase III study to demonstrate the efficacy of any agent for the treatment of progressive RAI-refractory thyroid cancer, extending PFS by 5 months compared with placebo (10.8 vs. 5.8 months)," explained Dr. Marcia Brose, lead author from the Abramsom Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania on the official ASCO page.

Brose said that the study did not conclude that Nexavar will make patients live longer since the placebo patients were also asked to take Nexavar due to the proven benefits. She disclosed that the move helped patients but sacrificed the statistics of the study.

"If they can have a 12-month period without going to the hospital and undergoing more operations, that would be very meaningful," said Brose, during an interview with USA Today. She estimated the cost to be around $96,000 for a year of Nexavar treatment and noted that most insurance companies do not cover such expenses.

Nexavar is approved for liver and kidney cancer. Bayer is seeking approval for a wider market use in Europe and the United States.

The National Cancer Institute forecasts about 60,220 cases of thyroid cancer in the United States with about 1,850 deaths in 2013.

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