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To conduct Japanese subgroup analyses of a randomized, global Phase II study of axitinib with and without dose titration in first-line metastatic renal cell carcinoma and to explore predictive factors for axitinib efficacy in first-line metastatic renal cell carcinoma.The data included 44 Japanese and 169 non-Japanese treatment-naïve patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Patients received twice-daily axitinib 5 mg during a 4-week lead-in period. Patients who met the pre-defined randomization criteria were stratified by Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status and randomly assigned (1:1) to axitinib or placebo titration. The primary endpoint was objective response rate; secondary endpoints included progression-free survival and safety. Predictive factors were analyzed using data from all patients.The objective response rate (95% confidence interval) was 66% (50–80%) vs. 44% (36–52%) in Japanese and non-Japanese patients, respectively. At the primary analysis, median progression-free survival could not be estimated for Japanese patients, and was 27.6 months (95% confidence interval: 16.6–33.2) in an updated analysis. Hypertension, diarrhea, hand–foot syndrome, dysphonia, hypothyroidism and proteinuria were common adverse events in Japanese patients. Due to a small number of randomized patients, effects of axitinib dose titration could not sufficiently be confirmed among Japanese patients. The multivariate analysis identified time from histopathological diagnosis to treatment and sum of the longest diameter for target lesion at baseline as independent predictive factors for progression-free survival.Axitinib is effective and well tolerated as first-line metastatic renal cell carcinoma therapy in Japanese patients. Predictive factors for axitinib efficacy endpoints identified in this setting warrant further investigation.