Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tumour spread is partly dependent on neoangiogenesis. In this open-label, multicentre, phase II trial done in Europe and Asia, sunitinib, a multitargeted tyrosine-kinase inhibitor with anti-angiogenic properties, was assessed in patients with advanced unresectable HCC.
Methods: Between February and July, 2006, eligible patients were enrolled and treated with repeated cycles of oral sunitinib (50 mg/day for 4 weeks, followed by 2 weeks off treatment). The primary endpoint of this Simon two-stage phase II trial was objective response rate according to Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST) criteria, with an expected response rate of 15%. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00247676.
Findings: Of 37 patients enrolled, one (2.7%) patient experienced a confirmed partial response, giving an overall objective response rate of 2.7% (95% CI 0.1-14.2); on the basis of this, the trial did not proceed to the second stage. 13 (35%) of 37 patients achieved stable disease for over 3 months. Commonly observed grade 3 and 4 adverse events included thrombocytopenia (14 of 37; 37.8%), neutropenia (nine of 37; 24.3%), asthenia (five of 37; 13.5%), hand-foot syndrome (four of 37; 10.8%), and anaemia (four of 37; 10.8%). There were four deaths among the 37 patients (10.8%) that were possibly related to treatment.
Interpretation: Sunitinib showed pronounced toxicities at a dose of 50 mg/day in patients with unresectable HCC. The response rate was low, and the study did not meet the primary endpoint based on RECIST criteria.
Funding: Pfizer Oncology.