Kidney Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. To see other pages, use the menu.

Doctors are working to learn more about kidney cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

Because most types of kidney cancer do not respond well to traditional chemotherapy, research for kidney cancer focuses on using newer and different treatments, such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy.

  • Targeted therapy. Several recently discovered drugs that affect the process of blood vessel development and/or cancer cell growth are being tested as targeted therapies for kidney cancer. The early results from these clinical trials show that these types of drugs may be effective treatments for kidney cancer, and this is an area of rapid scientific change.

    Many targeted therapies are being studied for use as adjuvant therapies, which are treatments given after the main treatment(s) to lower the risk of recurrence and to get rid of any remaining cancer cells. Currently, there are no adjuvant therapies for kidney cancer that have shown significant benefit.

  • Cancer vaccines. Cancer vaccines are treatments that help a person’s immune system fight cancer. Doctors are testing the use of several cancer vaccines to treat kidney cancer and to prevent recurrence for people with later-stage renal cell carcinoma. One vaccine is made from a person's tumor and given after surgery, while others are made from proteins found on the surface of kidney cancer cells or blood vessel cells found in the tumor.

  • Checkpoint inhibitors. A type of immunotherapy, called checkpoint inhibitors, works by taking the brakes off the immune system so it is better able to destroy the cancer. These drugs use antibodies directed at specific molecules found on the surface of immune cells, such as programmed death-1 (PD-1) and cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4). Some early results of research using these drugs to treat kidney cancer are encouraging, and more clinical trials are currently ongoing.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current kidney cancer treatments to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding kidney cancer, explore these related items that will take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.