Study shows Sutent/high blood pressure link; experts say it's worth the risk

WALTHAM, Mass. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the new anti-cancer drug Sutent can cause high blood pressure in patients with kidney cancer. This now relates to a study published last month that found the drug increased blood pressure and the risk of heart failure among patients with stomach cancer.

“Patients taking sutent and other similar [drugs] may experience increases in blood pressure of 15 percent to 25 percent,” said study author Michel Azizi, a professor of vascular medicine at Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris. Azizi thinks that, despite the increase in blood pressure, the cancer-fighting benefits of sutent outweigh the risks. Sutent and similar drugs are prescribed for patients with advanced malignancies and short life expectancies, he explained. Also, for patients with normal blood pressure, the increase caused by the drug is manageable with blood pressure-lowering drugs, he noted.

In a statement released in December for the The Lancet study, Sutent’s maker, Pfizer, agreed that these heart risks do exist. In the statement, Pfizer added that, “lower incidences of cardiovascular effects have been observed in subsequent randomized Phase III prospective sutent studies in both renal cell carcinoma and gastrointestinal stromal tumor[s].”

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