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The FDA swiftly approved Pfizer's sunitinib (Sutent) for the treatment of a rare stomach cancer, as well as advanced kidney cancer. The drug first received priority review status as a kidney cancer drug, and within 6 months it was approved because of its treatment success. When sunitinib was in clinical trials as a treatment for stomach cancer, those trials were halted because of the drug's significant ability to delay tumor growth; researchers began administering sunitinib to the patients in the placebo group. The drug works by depriving the tumor cells of the blood and nutrients needed for growth. The once-a-day capsule is now being studied for its efficacy in treating other cancers such as colorectal, breast, and lung cancer. Side effects include diarrhea, skin discoloration, mouth irritation, weakness, and altered taste; 4% of patients were affected by hypothyroidism.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.