Delivering a Double Punch to Recurrent Kidney Cancer

When it comes to kidney cancer, there has been more promising news as of late. Treatments for the disease have changed dramatically over the past few years. We now have new drugs that have shown very significant benefits for our patients whose cancer has unfortunately returned after surgical removal.

Most of these new drugs cut the blood supply to tumors, essentially “starving” them. These type of drugs are called antiangiogenic drugs, or angiogenesis inhibitors.

Here at Roswell Park, we have been using high doses of the drug Interleukin 2 (or IL2) for several years now. It’s a toxic drug, but it is really the only one that has shown the ability to shrink and destroy the tumor and maintain that effect over a longer period of time. However, only a small percentage of patients with recurring kidney cancer are able to experience this benefit of IL2.

We recently combined high dose Interleukin 2 with entinostat in an early phase clinical trial and saw some success. Entinostat is what’s known as an “histone deacetylase inhibitor” drug. It is essentially an experimental small molecule that affects how immune cells operate and may boost the natural power of the body’s immune system against cancer.

Because of our preliminary success, we will be starting the next phase of this research, which will enroll 30 adult patients who have clear cell carcinoma, the most common form of recurring kidney cancer, with no prior treatments. The study is now open and we are seeking younger patients (up to age early 60s) who are in excellent health, who are fit and who have had relatively limited or no complications thus far from their cancer.

By stimulating the immune cells to attack the tumor with Interleukin 2 and “charging up” the immune system with entinostat, our goal is to see a greater benefit than either one of those approaches would have by itself. If we’re successful, our research will then move forward to the next stage and eventually toward a potential new combination treatment.