Background:In the AXIS trial, axitinib prolonged progression-free survival (PFS) vs sorafenib in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC) previously treated with sunitinib or cytokines.Methods:In post hoc analyses, patients were grouped by objective response to prior therapy (yes vs no), prior therapy duration (< vs ⩾median), and tumour burden (baseline sum of the longest diameter < vs ⩾median). PFS and overall survival (OS), and safety by type and duration of prior therapy were evaluated.Results:Response to prior therapy did not influence outcome with second-line axitinib or sorafenib. PFS was significantly longer in axitinib-treated patients who received longer prior cytokine treatment and sorafenib-treated patients with smaller tumour burden following sunitinib. Overall survival with the second-line therapy was longer in patients who received longer duration of prior therapy, although not significant in the sunitinib-to-axitinib sequence subgroup; OS was also longer in patients with smaller tumour burden, but not significant in the cytokine-to-axitinib sequence subgroup. Safety profiles differed modestly by type and duration of prior therapy.Conclusions:AXIS data suggest that longer duration of the first-line therapy generally yields better outcome with the second-line therapy and that lack of response to first-line therapy does not preclude positive clinical outcomes with a second-line vascular endothelial growth factor-targeted agent in patients with advanced RCC.