Axitinib is an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor selective for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptors -1, -2 and -3 that is used in the therapy of advanced renal cell carcinoma. Axitinib therapy is commonly associated with transient elevations in serum aminotransferase that are generally mild and asymptomatic. Axitinib has yet to be linked to instances of clinically apparent acute liver injury.
Axitinib (Ax i’ ti nib) is an orally available tyrosine kinase inhibitor with activity against the receptors for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Engagement of these receptors by VEGF is associated with cell growth and angiogenesis, pathways that stimulate tumor growth. Axitinib also has activity against c-KIT (a tyrosine kinase receptor, mutations of which are found in gastrointestinal stromal tumors) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor. Preclinical studies demonstrated that axitinib has activity against several solid tumors in animal models. Clinical trials of axitinib in malignant diseases in humans showed activity against renal cell carcinoma and lesser effects in breast and gastric cancer. Axitinib received approval for use in the United States in 2012 for therapy of advanced renal cell carcinoma. Axitinib is available in tablets of 1 and 5 mg under the brand name Inlyta. The typical dose is 5 mg twice daily, which can be increased if well tolerated. Common side effects include fatigue, diarrhea, hypertension, anorexia, weight loss, nausea, hoarseness, hand-foot syndrome, constipation, arthralgias, abdominal discomfort, headache and rash. Uncommon side effects include venous thrombosis and gastrointestinal perforation.
In large clinical trials of axitinib, elevations in serum aminotransferase levels were common, occurring in up to 25% of patients. Values greater than 5 times the upper limit of normal (ULN), however, were uncommon, occurring in 1% to 2% of recipients. Furthermore, no instances of clinically apparent liver injury from axitinib were reported in prelicensure studies or during the more wide scale use since its approval. Nevertheless, periodic monitoring of liver tests during axitinib therapy is recommended.
Likelihood score: E* (unproven but suspected cause of clinically apparent liver injury).
Mechanism of Injury
The mechanism of injury accounting for serum enzyme elevations during axitinib therapy is not known. Axitinib is metabolized in the liver largely through the CYP 3A4 pathway and liver injury may be related to production of a toxic intermediate. Axitinib is susceptible to drug-drug interactions with agents that inhibit or induce hepatic CYP 3A4 activity.
Outcome and Management
Serum aminotransferase elevations above 5 times the upper limit of normal (if confirmed) should lead to dose reduction or temporary cessation. Axitinib has not been implicated in cases of acute liver failure, chronic hepatitis or vanishing bile duct syndrome. There does not appear to be cross reactivity in risk for hepatic injury between axitinib and other tyrosine kinase inhibitors and, in some situations, switching to another tyrosine kinase receptor inhibitor may be appropriate.
REPRESENTATIVE TRADE NAMES
Axitinib – Inlyta®
Product labeling at DailyMed, National Library of Medicine, NIH
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References updated: 01 August 2017
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Randomized phase II study of axitinib versus placebo plus best supportive care in
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