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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Sunitinib (Sutent®)


Brand Name: Sutent®

Sunitinib is used to treat gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), renal cell carcinoma (RCC, a type of kidney cancer), and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET).

Sunitinib belongs to a class of drugs called multikinase inhibitors. Kinases are enzymes that have many functions inside a cell, including sending a signal to multiply. Sunitinib blocks the activity of kinases, which stops or slows the growth of cancer.

This medication comes as a capsule that is taken by mouth. For GIST and RCC, sunitinib is usually taken once daily for 4 weeks, followed by a 2-week break before resuming treatment. For pNET, sunitinib is usually taken once daily. It’s best to take this medication at the same time each day. Capsules should be swallowed whole, and should not be split, chewed, crushed, or opened. The exact dose and duration of treatment may vary according to several factors, including how well the drug is working, how well your body is able to tolerate treatment, what other medications you are taking, and the type of cancer being treated. Your doctor will recommend the approach that is best for you.

Sunitinib side effects

To prevent problematic interactions between sunitinib and other drugs, be sure to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, and what other medications and supplements you are currently taking. You should also inform your doctor if you have or ever had a liver tumor, liver or kidney disease, bleeding problems or any heart-related issues, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding. Sunitinib should not be taken during breastfeeding.

Sunitinib may cause skin to turn yellow and hair to lighten and lose color. This affect is not harmful or painful, and is most likely due to the yellow color of the medication.

You should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking this medication.

Possible side effects may include:

  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • White patches or sores on the lips or in the mouth and throat
  • Pain, irritation, or burning sensation of the lips, tongue, mouth or throat
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in sense of taste
  • Thin, brittle fingernails or hair
  • Weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Nervousness or shaking
  • Heavy, irregular, or missed menstrual periods
  • Depression
  • Rash
  • Dryness, thickness, cracking, or blistering of skin on palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Rash
  • Muscle, joint, back or limb pain
  • Unusual discomfort with cold temperatures

Some of sunitinib’s side effects can be serious. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Black and tarry stools
  • Red blood in stools, red urine
  • Vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
  • Stomach pain, swelling, or tenderness
  • Headache
  • Sore throat, fever, chills or other signs of infection
  • Swelling, tenderness, warmth or redness of a leg
  • Rapid, irregular, or pounding heartbeat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weight gain
  • Cough, coughing up blood
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sudden, severe pain
  • Swelling of eyes, face, lips, tongue or throat

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Patients may experience additional effects not mentioned above.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), your team of cancer experts will explain each of the side effects of sunitinib with you in detail, as well as the side effects and expectations of all other medications planned as part of your individualized treatment plan.

Sunitinib for cancer treatment

Sunitinib is approved by the FDA for treatment of the following:

  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) that has worsened after treatment with imatinib, or for patients who cannot take imatinib
  • Advanced renal cell carcinoma
  • Progressive, well-differentiated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET) that cannot be surgically removed or that has spread to other parts of the body

At CTCA, our integrative approach to cancer treatment works to fight your disease on all fronts and ensures that you remain at the center of everything we do. We encourage participation from both you and your family to make certain you are comfortable with all decisions made regarding your treatment.

The information provided here is for educational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Cancer Treatment Centers of America assumes no responsibility for how this material is used. Please check with a physician if you suspect you are ill. Also note that while Cancer Treatment Centers of America frequently updates its contents, medical information changes rapidly. Therefore, some information may be out of date.