Europen regulators have given the all clear for the first-line use of Pfizer’s cancer drug Sutent for the treatment of advanced and/or metastatic renal cell carcinoma, giving patients with kidney cancer a new hope.

Sutent (sunitinib) is the first is new class of multiple receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors – which work by preventing tumour growth while simultaneously restricting cancer cells’ blood supply - to be given the green light by the European Commission for first-line use in this setting. Previously, the agent was only used as a second-line therapy after other therapies had failed.

Approval was based on clinical data showing that patients taking the drug experienced greater progression-free survival than those taking the standard therapy interferon-alfa (11 months versus five months). “Doubling median progression-free survival compared to the current standard treatment is a promising results, and confirms Sutent’s value for this devastating disease,” commented Professor Sylvie Negrier, Deputy Director of the Centre Leon Berard, Lyon, and Professor of Medicine at Lyon University.

But Sutent’s clearence as a first-line therapy spells bad news for its closest rival, Bayer and Onyx’ Nexavar (sorafenib), which is still only available for second-line use. Shares in the latter group dropped 2.6% on the Nasdaq to close at $11.91 yesterday, while Pfizer stock closed up 1.2% at $27.17 on the New York Stock Exchange.