New option for late-stage colon cancer patients
September 27th, 2012
01:52 PM ET

New option for late-stage colon cancer patients

Patients with late-stage, metastatic colon cancer who have run out of treatment options will soon have a new drug available that might help.

The drug Stivarga was approved on Thursday under the Food and Drug Administration's "fast track" program, which speeds up approval for drugs that work significantly better than other available therapies or where no treatments exist at all.

According to a study of 760 patients with late-stage colon cancer, Stivarga helped patients in the treatment group live an average of 1.4 months longer than patients taking a placebo; and patients had less tumor growth in the time they were taking the drugs.

Despite its success the drug has many side effects, including fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, mouth sores, weight loss, infection, high blood pressure and changes in voice volume.  The FDA is also requiring the drug's manufacturer, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, to include a warning label, alerting patients that fatal liver toxicity did occur in some study patients.

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. izzy

    yay! now for no side effects and completely erradicating the tumors but any improvement is a WIN!!!

    September 27, 2012 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Barb

    People need to go to the doctor for regular colonoscopies. Cancer deaths from colon cancer would drop like a rock if people were tested regularly. A large percentage of cancer deaths are from colon cancer. It would be so heartening to see people being tested regularly for something that is largely treatable in early stage cancer.

    September 27, 2012 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      My husband was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer (spread to lymph nodes) ONE YEAR after a clean colonoscopy. If you have pain, and a doctor says "IBS," and just prescribes anti-spasmodics, think again. "IBS" (irritable bowel syndrome) really means "I BS," a doctor who is too lazy to do a CEA blood test along with that colonoscopy.

      September 27, 2012 at 22:18 | Report abuse |
    • VladT

      While I sympathize for you and your husband, turning your anger toward all doctors helps nothing. It is possible your husband had a healthy colon at the time of the test, then developed an aggressive form of the cancer later that year. I wish you and him the best

      September 28, 2012 at 07:59 | Report abuse |
    • Squeezebox

      Early detection doesn't always save lives. My mother had a colonoscopy, they found something growing in the colon wall and tried to remove it. She died from an infection following the surgery. 🙁

      September 28, 2012 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
    • lawrencewinkler

      It's easy to talk about cancer and death when it seems perhaps far off. But, when the inevitable is approaching?

      I certainly understand one's desire to blame somebody for mistakes and not caring when bad diagnosis is offered. But illness and death is not avoidable and it's nobody's fault most of the time. "If only I'd .....", "If only they'd ..." we would live forever?

      September 30, 2012 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
  3. Gary

    I'm glad we are making progress in fighting cancer, but I'm not sure it's worth 1.4 months to live with those side effects. I wonder what it costs?

    September 27, 2012 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jake

      10 grand a month. Chemo drugs that extend life for a short period of time filled with side effects should be paid for by the patient. Our tax dollars will pay for cures but should not be going to the shareholders of BigPharma while you live an extra 1.4 months wasting away in bed from awful side effects and poor quality of life.

      September 28, 2012 at 00:37 | Report abuse |
  4. AFP1966

    Another unneeded new drug. Cannabis Cures Cancer! Check out all the science and successes on youtube!

    September 27, 2012 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jackie

      Yeah, because youtube is where all intelligent people go to get accurate scientific information. All those doctors who went into debt while spending years in school just wasted tons of time and money. They should have just watched youtube!

      September 28, 2012 at 04:20 | Report abuse |
    • Max Brooks


      Nice straw man. AFP1966 didn't say that cannabis cures cancer _because_ there are videos about it on YouTube. YouTube is simply the quickest way to present the information to people who are too lazy to research the information for themselves. (Kind of like the 'Medical cannabis' article on Wikipedia...) Any new scientific information mentioned on YouTube about cannabis can be easily Google'd in order to locate the relevant studies on cannabis.

      September 28, 2012 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
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    September 27, 2012 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Elizabeth

    My husband has colon cancer. At the beginning of chemo therapy, patients are told that there are lots of options, but in fact, there are only a few treatments. If those treatments don't stop the growth of cancer, then there aren't any other drugs to use. This is very good news if it is an effective treatment.
    However, the FDA also ignores cancer treatments that are not produced by the big pharmaceutical companies. The FDA has a system where pharmaceutical companies pay a high "fee" so their drugs may be evaluated; this "fee" ensures that less expensive treatments are never tested. The FDA also rarely tests drugs; they rely on industry researchers, but those researchers are often paid by giant fundraisers or by the government. One does of some treatments costs $80,000.
    I know that the work of doctors like Burzinski is controversial, because he never paid the fee. However, his work was used by companies that the FDA did approve, in fact, some of his patents were stolen. If there were any honesty in the government's oversight of medicines, there would be more cures. This is not just a theory for my family, but it is close to a life and death situation. Watching somebody slowly lose their life is excruciating, and nothing in this article gives me any confidence that there is any real new treatment. People live 1.4 more months? Really? That's not a cure, and is a terrible insult to cancer patients and their families.

    September 27, 2012 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      (Sorry: one dose)

      September 27, 2012 at 22:20 | Report abuse |
    • VladT

      The company and/or group of individuals who developed a cure for cancer, even if it only cost $5 a dose, would be set for life both in fame and fortune. To imply there is a cure out there but "Big Pharma" is preventing it due to lack of profit is ludicrous, and demonstrates to us readers that either you just don't like doctors, or the inability to cure a loved one's disease has made you turn your grief into anger directed at individuals who may be actually trying to find better treatments

      September 28, 2012 at 08:08 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      The FDA never tests drugs. It evaluates the clinical trials performed by pharmaceutical companies (or organizations paid by pharmaceutical companies) to determine if the drug is safe and effective. If the results of clinical trials are found to have been manipulated, the penalty for the pharmaceutical company is very severe. Certainly pharmaceutical companies do a lot of things that are unethical but to imply that they are completely evil is a bit of a stretch.

      September 28, 2012 at 11:22 | Report abuse |
  7. mike fox

    You live 1.4 months longer than those who didn't take it ??? Not hardly a cure or a treatment now is it.... just a temporary setback.

    September 28, 2012 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Bob

    Oy yeah! Another uber expensive cancer treatment that gives you false hope, and, on average, gives you 1.4 more months of life, but makes you feel so miserable you'll wish you were dead anyway! Ka-ching for Pharma!

    September 28, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Christine

    While I don't profess to be a doctor, I would imagine that the doctor who did your husband's colonoscopy ELIZABETH must have missed your husbands cancer. I have never heard of a cancer to progress that quickly in the colon within a years time after nothing was there the year before. The tumors usually take a lot longer to progress ......I had a doctor miss a very vital polyp I had.....was found in my next colonoscopy ......found in exactly the same spot my mothers colon cancer was. I did not have a good doctor at all who missed that dangerous polyp. Not all doctors out there are good......Best wishes to your husband.....

    September 29, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. kim

    the recommended age for your first colonoscopy is 50. I had no family history or any signs or symptems; I had to have an emergency appendectomy and was told the appendix was cancer and have since had a colon resection where they also found it had spread to my liver and lymphnodes. . I have been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. I just turned 50 in august and had no symptoms. I'm supposed to start chemo in couple of weeks.

    October 3, 2012 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Peggy

      Kim~ I'm sorry. You must be devastated! It's a tough battle, but one, I believe you can win! Hang in there! Cheering for you! Praying for you up to the sky with sparkles!

      October 4, 2012 at 00:35 | Report abuse |
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  12. Cris

    This drug has really been harsh on my family member. Horrible hand and foot syndrome to the point that use of hands was severely limited and walking was so painful. I know everyone is different and possibly this medication will offer benefits to others.

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