Study Finds Adjuvant Sunitinib Improves Disease-Free Survival in High-Risk Renal Cell Carcinoma After Nephrectomy


Key Points

  • Adjuvant sunitinib increased disease-free survival vs placebo in patients with high-risk renal cell carcinoma.
  • Grade 3 or 4 adverse events were more common with sunitinib.

In the phase III S-TRAC trial reported at the 2016 European Society for Medical Oncology Congress and in The New England Journal of Medicine by Ravaud et al, adjuvant sunitinib (Sutent) significantly prolonged disease-free survival vs placebo in patients with high-risk renal cell carcinoma after nephrectomy.

Study Details

In this double-blind trial, 615 patients with locoregional clear cell renal cell carcinoma at high risk of recurrence after nephrectomy from 99 sites in 21 countries were randomized between September 2007 and April 2011 to receive sunitinib at 50 mg/d (n = 309) or placebo (n = 306). Treatment was given on a 4-week on/2-week off schedule for 1 year or until disease recurrence, unacceptable toxicity, or consent withdrawal. The primary endpoint was disease-free survival on blinded independent central review in the intent-to-treat population.

Patients had a median age of 57 to 58 years (25%–27% ≥ 65 years); 72% to 75% were male; 82% to 86% were white; median interval from diagnosis was 10.7 weeks; 99% had an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 0 or 1; 93% had UCLA Integrated Staging System stage 3 tumors (53%–54% considered higher risk); and 48% to 53% had disease of the right kidney. Higher risk was defined as stage 3 tumor, no or undetermined nodal involvement, no metastasis, Fuhrman grade 2 or higher, and performance status of 1 or higher or a stage 4 tumor, local nodal involvement, or both.

Disease-Free Survival Outcomes

Median duration of follow-up was 5.4 years in both the sunitinib and placebo groups. Data cutoff was in April 2016. On central review, median disease-free survival was 6.8 years (95% confidence interval [CI] = 5.8 years to not reached) in the sunitinib group vs 5.6 years (95% CI = 3.8–6.6 years) in the placebo group (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.76, P = .03). Disease-free survival was 64.9% vs 59.5% at 3 years and 59.3% vs 51.3% at 5 years. Among higher-risk patients, median disease-free survival was 6.2 vs 4.0 years (HR  = 0.74, P = .04). On investigator assessment, median disease-free survival was 6.5 vs 4.5 years (HR  = 0.81, P = .08) among all patients and 5.9 vs 3.9 years (HR = 0.76, P = .06) among higher-risk patients.

Data on overall survival were not mature. At data cutoff, death had occurred in 20.7% of patients in the sunitinib group and 20.9% in the placebo group (HR = 1.01, P = .94). Median overall survival was not reached in either group.

Adverse Events

The most common adverse events of any grade in the sunitinib group were diarrhea (57% vs 21%), palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia (50% vs 10%), hypertension (37% vs 12%), fatigue (37% vs 24%), and nausea (34% vs 14%). Grade 3 (48% vs 16%) or 4 (12% vs 4%) adverse events were more common in the sunitinib group, with the most common being palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia (16% vs < 1%), hypertension (8% vs 1%), and neutropenia (8% vs 0%). Adverse events led to dose reduction in 34% vs 2%, dose interruption in 46% vs 13%, and drug discontinuation in 28% vs 6%. Serious adverse events occurred in 22% vs 17%. No deaths were attributed to study drug toxicity.

Patients in the sunitinib group had lower scores on most European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) QLQ-C30 subscales during treatment, with a minimally important difference (10 points) exceeded for diarrhea and loss of appetite (P < .001 for both comparisons with placebo).

The investigators concluded: “Among patients with locoregional clear-cell renal-cell carcinoma at high risk for tumor recurrence after nephrectomy, the median duration of disease-free survival was significantly longer in the sunitinib group than in the placebo group, at a cost of a higher rate of toxic events.”

The study was funded by Pfizer.

Michael Staehler, MD, PhD, of the University Hospital of Munich, and Jean-Jacques Patard, MD, PhD, of Bicetre Hospital, Paris-Saclay University, contributed equally to The New England Journal of Medicine article.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.