Researchers from Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Surrey were part of an international team, which conducted a six year trial to improve the outcomes for a specific large group of kidney cancer patients.
These patients have surgery to remove their kidney cancer removed, but they continue to be at high risk of the disease coming back. Treating these high risk patients with a daily tablet of the drug Sunitinib for one year, significantly reduced the risk of recurrence.
More than 600 patients across the world took part in the study to examine the effect of one year of ‘preventative’ treatment.
The drug is already used routinely for patients who have kidney cancer that has spread to other organs. The study (called S-TRAC) selected patients deemed to be high risk bases on the size of the cancer removed.
Patients with stage three kidney cancer have a 40-50 per cent chance of cancer returning even after surgery. The study saw half of the participants received Sunitib and the others receive a placebo both for one year, so that its effects could be analysed.
Patients taking Sunitib were found to have 6.8 years of cancer free survival as opposed to 5.6 years for those participants taking the placebo.
St Luke’s Cancer Centre recruited the most patients in the UK to this study through the network kidney cancer team including specialist urologists, Mr Neil Barber and Mr Richard Hindley, and oncologists Dr Agniezska Michael and Prof Hardev Pandha.
The lead investigator for the UK was the Trust’s Professor Hardev Pandha, a Consultant Physician and Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Surrey, who was involved in its original inception seven years ago and the design and analysis of the study.
Professor Pandha, said: “These results are incredibly exciting and will change the way that this group of patients is treated in the NHS.
“We are used to giving this type of preventative or ‘adjuvant’ treatment, successfully, in other cancers such as breast cancer.
“Statistically almost half of the patients treated for so-called ‘stage three’ kidney cancer are likely to see their cancer return: this drug delayed that recurrence significantly.
“Although there were side effects associated with Sunitinib, these were manageable and did not affect the patients quality of life significantly.
“The reason for the benefit is most likely related to the fact that little bits of the disease that can’t be seen with the naked eye or even with a microscope are still floating around in the patient’s body after surgery and this drug effectively gets rid of them
“It is hoped that they could be available to use within 18 months, subject to approval from NICE.”
The results of this study were presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology Cancer, in the opening presidential address which describes the most significant trial outcomes of the year.
Christopher Tibbs, the Trust’s Medical Director, said: “We have a really strong ethos of research and development at Royal Surrey, much of this in partnership with the University of Surrey.
“This is a really positive result that could make a real difference to kidney cancer patients. The increase in ‘disease free time’ and the reduced risk of the disease returning will mean so much to these patients.
“I’m delighted that we’ve seen such good results and will continue to support my clinical colleagues in their endeavours to always look for medical advancements and opportunities to achieve improved outcomes.”