Targeted therapy in renal cell carcinoma.
Hypoxia-regulated genes such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) are both important for tumour progression in renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Drugs that block these and other pathways have been examined in Phase I and II clinical trials in patients with advanced or metastatic RCC. Results from a randomised study of an anti-VEGF antibody demonstrate a delay in the time to disease progression, suggesting a biological effect and change in the natural history of the disease. Results using small-molecule inhibitors of VEGF, FLT3, KIT and platelet-derived growth factor receptor tyrosine kinases, such as sunitinib, show a 40% objective response rate. Results from a Phase III clinical trial with sorafenib, an inhibitor of multiple tyrosine kinases, show only a 2% response rate; however, a statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival was observed. Objective responses have also been noted using an inhibitor of the mammalian target of rapamycin. Conversely, EGF receptor inhibitors, proteosome inhibitors, microtubule stabilising agents, cell-cycle inhibitors and imatinib were also examined with few objective responses. Ultimately, identifying the predictive factors for responsiveness to these targeted therapies may improve the clinical benefit; for example, RCC with biallelic mutations in the von Hippel-Lindau gene would have higher levels of hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha, and may be more responsive to inhibitors of angiogenesis. Phase III studies comparing the combinations of targeted therapy could lead to a new standard of care for RCC.
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