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What is Sorafenib?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Sorafenib is an oral medication that is prescribed to treat certain varieties of advanced-stage liver and kidney cancer. It works by inhibiting the action of proteins that control replication in cancerous cells. Oncologists often prescribe sorafenib as a compliment to other cancer treatments, including radiation and surgery. The drug cannot cure liver or kidney cancers, but it can help slow their progression and significantly improve symptoms in many patients.

Protein kinase enzymes are found in all body cells. They aid in the regulation of numerous processes, including replication and programmed cell death. In cancerous cells, however, the enzymes can become overactive and cause cells to replicate wildly instead of dying in their normal fashion. Sorafenib acts as a kinase inhibitor, blocking enzymes from getting out of control. With kinase enzymes stifled, cancer cannot spread as efficiently and tumors begin to shrink as existing cells perish.

Sorafenib has been found effective at regulating advanced renal cell carcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. It can cause a number of adverse side effects, however, since its primary inhibiting action can affect healthy cells as well as cancerous ones. A patient may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. The drug can also cause feelings of fatigue, joint pain, and numbness in the extremities. Some people have severe chest pains, rashes, and shortness of breath that may be signs of allergic reactions.

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Patients who take sorafenib are at an increased risk of high blood pressure, internal bleeding, and heart problems. The drug can interact negatively with other medications, including common over-the-counter remedies, resulting in potentially life-threatening complications. Doctors carefully check patients' medical histories and current medications before prescribing sorafenib to limit the chances of serious side effects.

Sorafenib is intended to be taken daily in dosages recommended by the prescribing physician. Most adult patients are instructed to take a 400 milligram pill twice a day before meals, but exact dosing amounts may vary depending on an individual's age and specific condition. It is important for a patient to attend regular checkups and report any unusual side effects so the doctor can adjust dosages or switch medications as necessary.

Renal cell and hepatocellular carcinomas are difficult cancers to control. With a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and kinase inhibitors such as sorafenib, doctors are often able to make patients feel much better. It is unlikely that treatments will completely eliminate cancers, but individuals who take their medications and follow their doctors' orders can often enjoy longer, more fulfilling lives.

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