MONDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) — For patients with thyroid cancer that does not respond to standard radioactive iodine treatment (RAI), treatment with sorafenib significantly improves survival compared with placebo, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, held from May 31 to June 4 in Chicago.

Marcia S. Brose, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues randomly assigned 417 patients with metastatic differentiated thyroid cancer resistant to standard RAI to placebo or sorafenib, an orally active inhibitor of VEGFR1-3 and Raf kinases. The placebo group was allowed to cross over to open-label sorafenib upon disease progression.

The researchers found that the median progression-free survival was significantly longer for the sorafenib group (10.8 versus 5.8 months). The sorafenib group also had a significantly greater percentage of patients whose tumors shrunk 30 percent or more (12.2 versus 0.5 percent) and had stable disease for at least six months (54 versus 34 percent). Median overall survival has not yet been reached in either group.

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“After having no effective drugs for these patients for so many years, it is very exciting to find an oral drug that stops growth of the cancer for several months,” Brose said in a statement. “For these patients, a longer progression-free survival means more months without hospitalization and invasive procedures to control pain and other symptoms. This is the first time we have had a systemic treatment that can help.”

The study was funded in part by Bayer HealthCare and Onyx Pharmaceuticals, both of which develop and market sorafenib.

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