Kidney Cancer (Adult) Renal Cell Carcinoma Overview

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Treating Kidney Cancer TOPICS

Biologic therapy (immunotherapy) for kidney cancer

The goal of biologic therapy is to boost the body’s own immune system to help fight off or destroy cancer cells. Before targeted therapies, this was the most common first treatment for advanced kidney cancer, and it may still be helpful for some people. Because biologic therapy can be hard to give and can cause serious side effects, many doctors now save it for people who have cancers that don’t respond to targeted therapies.

The main immunotherapy drugs used for kidney cancer are cytokines (proteins that “turn on” the immune system). For a small number of patients, cytokines can shrink the cancer to less than half its original size.

The side effects of immunotherapy can be severe and, rarely, fatal. For this reason, only doctors experienced in the use of cytokines should give this treatment to people with kidney cancer.

To learn more about specific biologic therapies, please see our document Kidney Cancer (Adult) Renal Cell Carcinoma.


Last Medical Review: 11/27/2012
Last Revised: 04/01/2014