Metastatic Kidney Cancer

Having metastatic kidney cancer means that cancer cells from the tumor in your kidney have spread to distant parts of your body, such as your brain, bone or lung. The cancer cells in these new areas are kidney cancer cells (rather than brain, bone or lung cancer cells) and the new lesions or tumors are called metastases.

About 22% of patients with kidney cancer already have metastatic disease at the time of their diagnosis. If you have metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) your physician will assign your cancer a risk level (favorable, intermediate or poor). Your treatment options will depend on the type of your cancer (clear cell versus non-clear cell) and your risk level.  Your treatment options may include one or more of the following:

  • Cytoreductive nephrectomy. This operation removes all or part of the affected kidney in order to remove all of the primary tumor. Although metastatic tumors still remain, cytoreductive nephrectomy can reduce the amount or burden of cancer in the body and may help other treatments work better against the remaining cancer.
  • Metastasectomy. This operation removes a metastatic tumor or lesion. This option is best for patients who can have their entire primary tumor removed and have only one or two sites of metastatic disease in the brain, bone or lung. 
  • Clinical trial of a new agent or combination of drugs.
  • Targeted therapy using a different targeted drug or combination of drugs from what those used as first line treatment
  • High-dose IL-2 therapy. IL-2 is a synthetic form of interleuken-2, a protein your body produces naturally. IL-2 therapy fights cancer by boosting production and function of several cell types of the immune system.
  • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) delivers high dose radiation therapy to precisely targeted areas in fewer treatment sessions. Roswell Park’s cutting-edge research of SBRT in advanced kidney cancer found that it may improve the anti-cancer effect of other treatments such as immunotherapy and cytoreductive nephrectomy. 
  • Supportive or palliative care is medical care that focuses on relieving the symptoms of your cancer or its treatment. Supportive care is an important part of every patient’s treatment plan regardless of your cancer’s stage and address physical, psychological and spiritual challenges.