Immunotherapy for kidney cancer
Immunotherapy is an innovative treatment option for advanced cancers, including kidney cancer that has metastasized. We use two types of immunotherapy to treat kidney cancer:
Checkpoint inhibitors work by disrupting the chemical signals that cancer cells send to allow them to hide from the immune system. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the checkpoint inhibitor drug nivolumab (Opdivo®) to treat renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer. Nivolumab targets the protein PD-1, a key receptor that helps to regulate the body's immune response.
Cytokines are molecules that help regulate immune activity. The cytokine drugs alpha-interferon (IFN-alpha) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) are used to treat some types of kidney cancer. IFN-alpha may help slow or stop cancer cells from dividing and make them more vulnerable to an immune attack. IL-2 is a natural protein that stimulates the growth of immune cells and activates them to destroy tumor cells.
Immunotherapy may not be recommended for all patients, and may be used in combination with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.