What`s new in kidney cancer research?
There is always research going on in the area of kidney cancer. Scientists are looking for causes of the disease and ways to prevent it. They are also trying to find new drugs and looking at the best way to combine drugs already in use. A major area of research lies in finding better ways to choose the best treatment for each person. That is, finding factors about a person’s cancer that make it more likely to respond to a certain medicine.
Scientists are studying several genes that may play a part in changing normal kidney cells into renal cell carcinoma. Doctors are also trying to figure out which treatments are likely to work best for certain types of kidney cancer. This information can also be used to develop new treatments.
New approaches to local treatment
Very intense, focused ultrasound is a fairly new treatment that is now being studied for use in kidney cancer. It involves aiming very focused ultrasound beams from outside the body to destroy the tumor.
Ablation with cryotherapy or radiofrequency ablation is sometimes used to treat small kidney cancers. Research is now being done to learn how useful these techniques are in the long term.
Because chemo drugs do not work very well against advanced kidney cancer, targeted therapies are usually the first-line option to treat kidney cancers that cannot be removed by surgery. Clinical trials are now under way to try to find out whether combining these drugs, either with each other or with other types of treatment, might be better than using them alone. Some new targeted therapies are being tested as well, with cediranib and linifanib showing promise.
Giving targeted therapy drugs before and after surgery is also being studied.
Kidney cancer is one of a handful of cancers that may respond to immunotherapy. Clinical trials of new immunotherapy methods are being tested. Basic research is now focused on getting a better understanding of the immune system, how to trigger it, and how it reacts to cancer.
Doctors are looking the use of cytokines to boost immune system cells that have been removed from the blood. Early results have shown promise, but more studies are needed.
Vaccines that boost the body’s immune response to kidney cancer cells are being tested in clinical trials. Unlike vaccines against infections like measles or mumps, these vaccines are designed to help treat, not prevent, kidney cancer. One possible advantage of these types of treatments is that they seem to have very limited side effects. At this time, these vaccines are only being used in clinical trials.
Bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant
The amount of chemo that can be given is often limited by the damage it does to the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. To get around this problem, a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant might be done.
Blood-forming stem cells are taken from the bone marrow or from the bloodstream of either the patient or a matched donor. The patient is then treated with powerful chemotherapy drugs either in high doses, or with lower doses (called a “mini” stem cell transplant). After treatment, the stem cells are given back to the patient as a blood transfusion. The transplanted stem cells return to the bone marrow and over time begin to make new blood cells.
Stem cells from a donor also become immune to the patient's tissues. This might help the patient to fight the cancer. This approach is under study and more research is needed before it will be used outside of clinical trials.
Last Medical Review: 11/27/2012
Last Revised: 01/23/2013