Evidence and Clinical Relevance of Tumor Flare in Patients Who Discontinue Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors for Treatment of Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma

Eur Urol. 2015 Jul;68(1):154-60. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2014.10.034. Epub 2014 Nov 6.


Background: Several tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and one monoclonal antibody targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)/VEGF receptor (VEGFR) axis have been approved for the treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC). Preclinical data suggest that cessation of anti-VEGF therapy may generate a tumor flare (TF) but its clinical relevance is still questionable.

Objective: This analysis investigates the occurrence of tumor flare and its prognostic role after discontinuation of anti-VEGFR TKIs in patients affected by mRCC.

Design, setting, and participants: Patients with mRCC treated with first-line sunitinib or pazopanib at standard dosages were screened. Patients included in the analysis were required to have: (1) discontinued treatment because of progression of disease or intolerable toxicity or sustained response; (2) evaluation of tumor growth rates immediately before (GR1) and after discontinuation (GR2); and (3) no treatment during evaluation of GR2.

Outcome measurements and statistical analysis: Overall survival (OS) was the main outcome. TF was calculated as the difference between the GR values (TF=GR2 - GR1). Cox proportional hazards regression was used to assess the prognostic role.

Results and limitations: Sixty-three consecutive patients were analyzed; the median duration of treatment was 9.3 mo, the median progression-free survival (PFS) was 11.1 mo, and the median OS was 41.5 mo. The reasons for treatment discontinuation were sustained response (partial response/stable disease) in 15.9%, toxicity in 22.2%, and progression of disease in 61.9% of cases. The median GR1 and GR2 were 0.16cm/mo (interquartile range [IQR] -0.07 to 0.53) and 0.70cm/mo (IQR 0.21-1.46), respectively (p=0.001). In the overall population, the median TF was 0.55cm/mo (IQR 0.08-1.22) and differed according to the reason for discontinuation: 0.15cm/mo for response, 0.95cm/mo for toxicity, and 1.66cm/mo for progression. When TF was compared to other prognostic variables, Cox analysis confirmed its prognostic role (hazard ratio 1.11, 95% confidence interval 1.001-1.225; p=0.048).

Conclusions: This study reports clinical evidence that TKI discontinuation results in acceleration of tumor GR and induces TF, which can negatively affect the prognosis of mRCC patients.

Patient summary: In this report, we looked at the outcomes for patients affected by metastatic kidney tumors who discontinued treatment with antiangiogenic agents. We found that tumor regrowth after discontinuation of therapy was related to the reason for discontinuation: regrowth was higher in patients who discontinued treatment because of disease progression, and lower in patients who discontinued treatment because of a sustained response. Moreover, we found that the higher the growth rate, the shorter the survival. We conclude that discontinuation of antiangiogenic agents may cause an increase in tumor growth rate, which is related to patient survival.

Keywords: Growth rate; Metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC); Pazopanib; Sunitinib; Treatment cessation; Treatment discontinuation; Tumor flare; Tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Study

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / blood supply
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / secondary
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indoles / therapeutic use*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Kidney Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use*
  • Pyrroles / therapeutic use*
  • Sulfonamides / therapeutic use*
  • Sunitinib
  • Withholding Treatment*


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Indoles
  • Pyrimidines
  • Pyrroles
  • Sulfonamides
  • pazopanib
  • Sunitinib