New Analysis Shows Cancer Drugs May have Fatal Side Effects

New Analysis Shows Cancer Drugs May have Fatal Side EffectsA new analysis of three relatively new cancer treatment drugs shows each may be linked to a slightly increased risk of death, and although the risk is small, investigators say both doctors and patients should be made aware of the potential problem.

According to HealthDay, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists and colleagues agree that the risks are worth noting, and published the findings in a February 6 edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In the analysis, investigators studied the findings of 10 clinical trials of nearly 4,700 patients who were given sorafenib (Nexavar) for kidney and liver cancer, sunitinib (Sutent) for kidney cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumors or pazopanib (Votrient) for kidney cancer.

These relatively new medicines, known as "targeted" drugs, were developed to stop the growth or spread of cancerous cells by blocking the vascular endothelial growth factor tyrosine kinase receptors in affected cells.

According to the National Cancer Institute, although many targeted cancer therapies have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, several others are currently in clinical trials and even more are still in preclinical testing studies.

After analyzing the clinical trials, the researchers found that the incidence of fatal complications was 1.5 percent in patients who were given any of the three studied drugs, compared to 0.7 percent of patients who were either given a different form of treatment or a placebo.

Fatal side effects included bleeding, heart attack and heart failure as the most common, while liver failure was also reported in the study.

Study leader Dr. Toni Choueiri stated that on average, the drugs have strong benefits, however, "while the absolute incidence of these fatal side effects is very small, the relative risks are higher and patients and practitioners need to be aware of it."