Adult patients suffering from selective subtypes of advanced soft tissue sarcomas (STS) now have access to an oral therapy for the first time thanks to the approval of Votrient (pazopanib) by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Votrient, made by GlaxoSmithKline, has been approved for the treatment of adults with selective subtypes of advanced STS who have received prior chemotherapy for metastatic disease or who have progressed within 12 months after (neo)adjuvant therapy.

STS are a rare group of cancers that develop in supporting or connective tissues such as muscle, nerves, cartilage, blood vessels and fat, affecting approximately 600 people in the UK each year.

From diagnosis of advanced disease, average survival is around 12 months, while less than 20% of patients survive for five years or longer.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) UK general manager Erik van Snippenberg said that the unmet need in cancer treatment remains significant, with cancer incidence and mortality set to double over the next 20 years.

"GSK is committed to supporting the research and development of innovative new medicines for rare cancers such as STS," van Snippenberg said.

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Approval was based on the results of the pivotal, randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled, multi-centre, Phase III study called PALETTE (PAzopanib expLorEd in sofT TissuE sarcoma).

The study evaluated the efficacy and tolerability of pazopanib in 369 patients with certain subtypes of advanced STS who had previously received chemotherapy.

It was found that pazopanib significantly increased the time that patients remained progression-free compared with placebo, and some 50% of patients who received pazopanib showed some degree of tumour shrinkage versus 12% of those who had the placebo.

Pazopanib also doubled the percentage of patients who experienced stabilisation of their disease compared with placebo.