3 Options for Kidney Cancer Treatment
If the cancer is limited to the kidneys, surgical removal of the affected kidney and possibly the surrounding tissue may be the only treatment required. Surgery can consist of a partial nephrectomy, in which only part of the kidney is removed, or a radical nephrectomy, which involves removal of the whole kidney. If the nearby lymph nodes are affected, they are also removed. Surgery is always the treatment of choice with kidney cancer at stages I through III. If all the cancer is surgically removed, there is often no need for follow-up treatment via immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy or radiation.
Immunotherapy, sometimes called biologic therapy, works by boosting the patient's own immune system to fight off the cancer. Biologic response modifiers such as interferon or interleukin enhance the immune system so that its natural T-cells recognize the kidney cancer cells, while other natural cells proceed to destroy them. Immunotherapy is often used to attack late-stage kidney cancer or kidney cancer that has spread to other organs. Various forms of immunotherapy have about a 13 percent success rate, and success typically manifests by the slow regression of the kidney tumor.
Targeted therapy introduces drugs that interfere with the replication and growth of the cancer cells. Angiogenesis inhibitors are drugs that disrupt the process by which cancer cells form new blood vessels, thereby keeping tumors from growing. Other types of targeted therapy drugs slow tumor growth by targeting the proteins that cancer cells produce in abundance as part of their growth. Each of these targeted drugs is designed to attack a specific form of kidney cancer, and many of them can be taken orally.
Targeted therapy is used in place of surgery when surgery is impossible because of the location of the tumor or the patient's overall health, and it's sometimes also used in conjunction with surgery in late-stage cancers. Targeted therapy tends to be more successful than immunotherapy and is usually the first line of attack if further treatment is needed after surgery.
The most common options for kidney cancer treatment are surgery, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. While surgery is typically the first choice, if a tumor is rather small, a doctor may recommend active surveillance by taking regular ultrasounds or CT scans of the tumor, with treatment only starting if the tumor shows any growth.
While remission does occur with kidney cancer, the cancer can also recur. Treatment for recurrent cancer may involve the same primary options already provided, and radiation and chemotherapy may be added to the mix of treatments as well. Some patients with recurrent cancer are also referred to clinical trials of new drugs.