Kidney Cancer Radiation and Systemic Therapies

While surgery is usually the first choice of treatment for kidney cancer, not all patients are good candidates for kidney surgery. In these cases doctors at Columbia University Department of Urology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital may treat patients with radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies, or a combination of these.

Radiation Therapy for Kidney Cancer

In patients whose kidney cancer is advanced and has spread to other organs, doctors may use external beam radiation with chemotherapy as the primary treatment. Radiation may also be used to alleviate symptoms such as pain or bleeding, or to treat areas of cancer metastasis, such as the bones or the brain.

Immunotherapy for Kidney Cancer

Our urologists treat advanced kidney disease with immunotherapies, substances designed to boost or restore the natural defenses against the cancer. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon alpha are currently the only FDA-approved immunotherapies. Doctors at Columbia Urology are also studying combination therapies including Intron A plus Atragen. This combination therapy may increase levels of available retinoic acid and boost the immune system. They are also evaluating the effects of low doses of IL-2 to help the body's white cells fight against cancer.

Targeted Therapy for Kidney Cancer

Patients with advanced kidney cancer now have access to several new targeted therapies—drugs that take aim at blocking specific pathways active in the progression of kidney cancer. These include sorafenib (Nexavar), sunitinib (Sutent), temsirolimus (Torisel), and bevacizumab (Avastin). Doctors are studying these agents to see how they can be used most effectively against kidney cancer.

Chemotherapy for Kidney Cancer

Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells and may be given in conjunction with surgery. Kidney cancer does not generally respond well to chemotherapy alone.