Purpose: Open-label, phase III trial evaluating whether sunitinib was superior or equivalent to sorafenib in hepatocellular cancer.
Patients and methods: Patients were stratified and randomly assigned to receive sunitinib 37.5 mg once per day or sorafenib 400 mg twice per day. Primary end point was overall survival (OS).
Results: Early trial termination occurred for futility and safety reasons. A total of 1,074 patients were randomly assigned to the study (sunitinib arm, n = 530; sorafenib arm, n = 544). For sunitinib and sorafenib, respectively, median OS was 7.9 versus 10.2 months (hazard ratio [HR], 1.30; one-sided P = .9990; two-sided P = .0014); median progression-free survival (PFS; 3.6 v 3.0 months; HR, 1.13; one-sided P = .8785; two-sided P = .2286) and time to progression (TTP; 4.1 v 3.8 months; HR, 1.13; one-sided P = .8312; two-sided P = .3082) were comparable. Median OS was similar among Asian (7.7 v 8.8 months; HR, 1.21; one-sided P = .9829) and hepatitis B-infected patients (7.6 v 8.0 months; HR, 1.10; one-sided P = .8286), but was shorter with sunitinib in hepatitis C-infected patients (9.2 v 17.6 months; HR, 1.52; one-sided P = .9835). Sunitinib was associated with more frequent and severe adverse events (AEs) than sorafenib. Common grade 3/4 AEs were thrombocytopenia (29.7%) and neutropenia (25.7%) for sunitinib; hand-foot syndrome (21.2%) for sorafenib. Discontinuations owing to AEs were similar (sunitinib, 13.3%; sorafenib, 12.7%).
Conclusion: OS with sunitinib was not superior or equivalent but was significantly inferior to sorafenib. OS was comparable in Asian and hepatitis B-infected patients. OS was superior in hepatitis C-infected patients who received sorafenib. Sunitinib-treated patients reported more frequent and severe toxicity.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00699374.