Kidney Cancer Medical Therapy

  • Roberto Pili, MD
    It helps only 20 percent of patients, but about 5 to 7 percent achieve a complete response. In these cases, their tumor disappears, and the patient remains in remission for a long time. – Roberto Pili, MD, Chief, Genitourinary Section, Department of Medicine

Immunotherapy

Treatment with immunologic agents stimulates the body’s immune system to change the way it responds to cancer cells. High-dose Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is an anti-cancer weapon option for select patients with kidney cancer. IL-2 is highly toxic and patients must be admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Roswell Park’s IL-2 Clinic is one of the busiest in the nation, and also serves patients from Canada. Patients are carefully screened for cardiopulmonary, kidney and liver functions plus response-related characteristics.

Currently, there is no way to predict which patients will benefit most from this treatment. IL-2 is the only curative option for metastatic kidney cancer.

Targeted Drug Therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Prescribed for patients with metastatic disease, these drugs do not eradicate cancer, but they do inhibit the progression and growth of tumors.

Over time, patients become resistant to the effects of the drugs so they are prescribed sequentially to prolong the benefit to the patient. Trials are currently underway to determine how to overcome the resistance to these drugs.

The Roswell Park Advantage

At Roswell Park, patients have the opportunity through clinical trials to be exposed to promising new treatment strategies and experimental drugs sooner, before they receive FDA approval.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy, or chemo, has not been proven effective in the treatment of a majority of kidney cancers, however scientists are working to find new drug combinations that will kill renal cancer cells. Patients with transitional cell carcinoma or Wilms' Tumor are more likely to have success with chemotherapy treatment than those with renal cell carcinoma.