3 The technology

3 The technology

3.1 Sunitinib

3.1.1 Sunitinib (Sutent, Pfizer) is an inhibitor of a group of closely related tyrosine kinase receptors. It inhibits VEGF/PDGF receptors on cancer cells, vascular endothelial cells and pericytes, inhibiting the proliferation of tumour cells and the development of tumour blood vessels. Sunitinib has a UK marketing authorisation for the treatment of people with advanced and/or metastatic RCC.

3.1.2 Sunitinib is contraindicated in people who have hypersensitivity to sunitinib malate or to any of the excipients. The summary of product characteristics (SPC) lists the following conditions that may be associated with sunitinib treatment: skin and tissue problems, gastrointestinal events, haemorrhage, hypertension, haematological problems, venous thromboembolic events, pulmonary embolism and hypothyroidism. For full details of side effects and contraindications, see the SPC.

3.1.3 Sunitinib is administered orally. The recommended dosage is 50 mg once daily for four consecutive weeks with a 2-week rest period (that is, a complete treatment cycle of 6 weeks). The dose may be adjusted in steps of 12.5 mg according to tolerability (dose range 25–75 mg). The price for a pack of 50-mg capsules (30 capsules per pack) is £3363.00 (excluding VAT; BNF edition 55). The average daily cost of sunitinib is £74.74, with an average 6-week cycle costing £3139. The manufacturer of sunitinib (Pfizer) has agreed a patient access scheme with the Department of Health, in which the first treatment cycle of sunitinib is free to the NHS. The Department of Health considered that this patient access scheme does not constitute an excessive administrative burden on the NHS. Costs of subsequent treatment cycles may vary in different settings because of negotiated procurement discounts.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)