www.thelancet.com Vol 370 December 22/29, 2007
Targeted drugs for metastatic renal cell carcinoma
See Articles page 2103
Metastatic renal cell carcinoma was once considered
a cancer with a poor outlook, with treatment
options limited to cytokines (ie, interferon).
Antiangiogenesis-targeting agents have recently
provided new options for therapy and have improved
prognosis. In today’s Lancet, Bernard Escudier and
report a randomised, double-blind
phase III trial in which they show beneﬁ t in response
and progression-free survival for interferon alfa-2a
plus bevacizumab, which targets vascular endothelial
growth factor, compared with interferon plus placebo in
ﬁ rst-line treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma.
Escudier and colleagues unblinded their study early,
and they explain in their report about the unblinding.
Data for the primary endpoint of overall survival were
not mature, but it was agreed that the secondary
endpoint of progression-free survival data from
the interim analysis were suﬃ cient for reporting.
325 patients received bevacizumab with interferon,
while 316 received placebo with interferon; 230 and
275 disease progression events occurred, respectively.
The median duration of progression-free survival
was 10·2 and 5·4 months, respectively (hazard ratio for
disease progression 0·63, 95% CI 0·52–0·75).
Previously, Yang and colleagues
had reported an
improvement in time to progression of renal cell
carcinoma with bevacizumab as a second-line therapy
after cytokines. Antitumour activity was then reported
in phase II trials with other antiangiogenic agents—
sunitinib, sorafenib, and temsirolimus.
trials showed superiority of sorafenib over placebo
in second-line therapy but not over interferon as
ﬁ rst-line therapy.
Sunitinib and temsirolimus have
been compared with interferon in phase III trials (one
of us, RJM, was an investigator in both studies),
both showed beneﬁ t in terms of survival endpoints
In the sunitinib versus interferon study,
750 previously untreated patients were enrolled.
The primary endpoint was independently evaluated
progression-free survival. At a planned interim analysis,
the median progression-free survival was longer in the
sunitinib group (11 months) than in the interferon
group (5 months; hazard ratio 0·42, 95% CI 0·32–0·54).
Sunitinib was associated with a 25% (95% CI 19–30%)
higher response rate than interferon by independent
review of response evaluation and a signiﬁ cantly better
quality of life.
In the temsirolimus trial,
209 patients were
randomised to temsirolimus alone, 207 to interferon
alone, and 210 to temsirolimus plus interferon.
The trial studied patients with previously untreated
poor-prognosis metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Poor-
prognosis status was assigned by number of adverse
pretreatment clinical features.
Patients treated with
temsirolimus had improved overall survival com-
pared with those treated with interferon (median
10·9 vs 7·3 months; hazard ratio for death 0·73,
95% CI 0·58–0·92) and longer progression-free survival.
The addition of temsirolimus to interferon did not
improve survival compared with interferon alone.
Escudier and co-workers’ study addressed the question
of whether interferon is eﬃ cacious as co-therapy with
Phase II trials of bevacizumab as ﬁ rst-line
and second-line monotherapy reported response rates
(15% and 10%, respectively), similar to those observed
with interferon alone.
The high response rate (31%)
seen in Escudier’s trial suggests that interferon does
contribute to the eﬃ cacy of this regimen.
In Escudier and co-workers’ trial, response was
assessed solely by the investigators. Lack of independent
review of response might have aﬀ ected the proportion
of patients with reported responses, and therefore
aﬀ ected perceived progression-free survival outcomes.
Investigators previously reported a 40% disagreement
between an investigator-assessed outcome and that of
an independent evaluation committee.
data from an earlier phase III trial of cytokine therapy
in metastatic renal cell carcinoma, and concluded that
independent review should be routinely included in
therapeutic trials (as it was in trials of sunitinib and
There are now three targeted regimens that are
reported to be beneﬁ cial compared with interferon in
ﬁ rst-line treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma
(bevacizumab, sunitinib, and temsirolimus; table), but
they have not been compared directly with each other
in phase III trials. Until such data are forthcoming,
information on clinical setting, nature of the treatment
programme, and outcome proﬁ les can help to direct
www.thelancet.com Vol 370 December 22/29, 2007
management of patients and future trial design. For
example, eligibility for the temsirolimus trial was
restricted to patients predicted to have a poor prognosis
(about 20% of patients with metastatic renal cell
carcinoma) according to a risk model developed at our
The safety proﬁ le and survival beneﬁ t in such
patients make temsirolimus attractive, particularly
for those with substantial symptoms related to their
By contrast, the phase III trials of
bevacizumab plus interferon and sunitinib
were in a
more general population. Both showed superiority in
progression-free survival, response, and tolerability
compared with interferon alone.
Other considerations useful in decisionmaking
include the subjective experience of patients with each
regimen (ie, health-related quality of life), adverse
event proﬁ les, and cost. Compared with interferon,
improve quality of life
and quality-adjusted survival, respectively, but such
beneﬁ ts have not yet been reported for bevacizumab
Drug costs for each targeted treatment are provided
in the table, on the basis of information from the British
(UK) or Medicare (USA).
data provide a crude comparison of drug costs faced by
governments or patients, excluding costs of infusions,
clinic time, or toxicity management, and do not reﬂ ect
discounting which might aﬀ ect prices paid for these
drugs by hospitals, pharmacies, oncology practices, or
patient assistance programmes. On the basis of these
data, the cost of bevacizumab plus interferon appears
to be roughly double that of sunitinib or temsirolimus
Bevacizumab plus interferon
Number of patients 649 750 626
Population (MSKCC risk groups)
All (mostly favourable and intermediate risk) All (mostly favourable and intermediate risk) Poor risk
Comparator Interferon Interferon Interferon
Regimen Bevacizumab 10 mg/kg intravenously every
2 weeks and interferon 9 MIU subcutaneously
3 times a week in repeated cycles
50 mg orally daily for 4 weeks then 2 weeks
oﬀ , in repeated cycles
25 mg intravenous weekly infusion, in
Therapy duration Bevacizumab until progression, interferon
52 weeks or until progression
Until progression Until progression
Is primary endpoint met? Overall survival: no Progression-free survival: yes Overall survival: yes
Investigator-assessed median progression-free
survival (months) vs interferon
10·2 vs 5·4 (0·63, 0·52–0·75)* 11·0 vs 4·0 (0·42, 0·33–0·52) 3·8 (95% CI 3·6–5·2) vs 1·9 (1·9–2·2)
Independent radiographic assessment of
median progression-free survival beneﬁ t
(months) vs interferon
11·0 vs 5·0 (0·42, 0·32–0·54) 5·5 (3·9–7·0) vs 3·1 (2·2–3·8)
Median overall survival beneﬁ t (months) vs
Data not mature Data not mature
10·9 vs 7·3 (0·73, 0·58–0·92)
Health-related quality of life or quality-adjusted
survival improvement over interferon therapy
Yes: mean FACT-G total score 82 vs 77,
Yes: Q-TWiST (quality-adjusted time without
symptoms of progression or toxicity)
7 months vs 5·7 months (diﬀ erence
1·3 months), p=0·0015
Predominant adverse events Fatigue, proteinuria, bleeding, hypertension Diarrhoea, fatigue, sores on hands and feet,
Asthenia, rash, hyperlipidaemia, anaemia
Drug discontinued for toxicity (%) Either drug 28
UK estimated cost for 12 weeks† $23 600 (bevacizumab alone $20 300,
interferon alone $3300)
$13 800 N/A‡
USA estimated cost for 12 weeks§ $30 400 (bevacizumab alone $25 600,
interferon alone $4800)
$13 600 $13 800
MSKCC=Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. *Hazard ratio and 95% CI. Estimated drug costs rounded to 100 and provided in US dollars (correct as of Dec 5, 2007). †British National Formulary;
12 weeks in British pounds £9900 for bevacizumab alone, £1600 for interferon alone, £6700 for sunitinib. ‡Price not yet available. §Based on 106% of average sales price for bevacizumab and interferon alfa-2a;
wholesale acquisition cost for temsirolimus, based on telephone conversation with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (Dec 5, 2007) and email correspondence with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, US Department
of Health & Human Services (Dec 4, 2007; as yet, no average sales price has been assigned for this drug); and representative Medicare part D full drug cost to patients, for Humana Inc Medicare Plans (as this is an
orally administered drug);
US average wholesale price shows similar trend in costs of $33 700, $15 200, and $16 600 for bevacizumab–interferon alfa-2a, sunitinib, and temsirolimus, respectively.
Table: Targeted drugs tested in phase III trials for metastatic renal-cell carcinoma
www.thelancet.com Vol 370 December 22/29, 2007
monotherapy. However, this comparison does not account
for possible diﬀ erences in costs when other factors are
considered, such as route of administration (sunitinib is
oral whereas interferon, bevacizumab, and temsirolimus
are parenteral), number of clinic visits, toxicity checks,
or supportive medications. A formal cost-eﬀ ectiveness
analysis could provide a more comprehensive comparison
of cost diﬀ erences between regimens.
At our centre, sunitinib is the preferred ﬁ rst-line
treatment option for most patients with metastatic
renal cell carcinoma, because of the availability of the
drug as oral therapy, its high response rates according
to studies with independent review, its safety proﬁ le,
and its positive eﬀ ect on health-related quality of life.
Nonetheless, the availability of alternative drugs is
beneﬁ cial to patients, and allows for individual patients’
characteristics and preferences.
Escudier and colleagues are to be commended for their
phase III trial. The study supports the value of vascular
endothelial growth factor blockade as a therapeutic
approach to the treatment of metastatic renal cell
carcinoma, and highlights the need for further research
to deﬁ ne the optimum in the rapidly changing era of
*Robert J Motzer, Ethan Basch
Genitourinary Oncology Service, Division of Solid Tumor Oncology,
Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center,
New York, NY 10021, USA (RJM, EB); Weil Medical College of
Cornell University, New York, NY, USA (RJM); and Health Services
Research Group, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics,
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA (EB)
We thank Carol Pearce for review of this article and the MSKCC pharmacy and
ﬁ nance departments for assistance with data gathering and conﬁ rmation.
Mechanical bowel preparation before colorectal surgery?
Is mechanical bowel preparation of beneﬁ t to patients
undergoing colorectal surgery? In today’s Lancet,
Caroline Contant and colleagues
report a randomised
trial on more than 1400 patients who underwent
colorectal surgery with or without this procedure. These
investigators found that the occurrence of clinically
signiﬁ cant anastomotic leaks was similar in both
groups of patients (4·8% vs 5·4%, with and without
the procedure, respectively; eﬀ ect diﬀ erence 0·6%,
95% CI −1·7 to 2·7%). They concluded that mechanical
bowel preparation should not be done before elective
colorectal surgery. In another trial, Jung co-workers
recently concluded similarly. They assessed more than
1300 patients and found no appreciable diﬀ erence
in clinical anastomotic leaks and intra-abdominal
abscesses between patients who had the procedure and
those who did not (2·6% vs 4·3%, eﬀ ect diﬀ erence 1·7%,
95% CI 0·7–2·7).
RJM has received honoraria from Bayer/Onyx, research funding from Genentech,
Wyeth Research, Pﬁ zer, and Novartis, and past research funding from Roche and
Schering-Plough. EMB has served as an unpaid guest worker for the US Food and
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See Articles page 2112