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About biological therapies

See how biological therapies are used to treat advanced kidney cancer.

What they are

Biological therapies are drug treatments that interfere with the way cells work. They can be used to boost the body's immune system so it can fight off or destroy cancer cells (immunotherapy). Or they can block the signals that tell cells to grow.

Biological therapy for advanced kidney cancer

Biological therapies are used to try to shrink or control advanced kidney cancer. This aims to help you live longer. These drugs often stop or slow the growth of your cancer for months, and sometimes years.

Different treatments work for different patients. Your doctor will look at your general health to decide on the best treatment for you. 

Drugs used to treat advanced kidney cancer

Sunitinib (Sutent) is the most commonly used first treatment for advanced kidney cancer. Pazopanib (Votrient) is also commonly used.

These treatments block cancer growth signals in cells. They're called tyrosine kinase inhibitors. You take them as tablets. 

Interferon may be used if your cancer is small. It’s given 3 times a week, as an injection just under the skin. It boosts your immune system to attack the cancer cells (immunotherapy).

Sorafenib (Nexavar) or interleukin 2 (aldesleukin or Proleukin) are sometimes used as a first treatment.

If your treatment stops working

If the cancer starts growing again, your doctor may recommend a second type of treatment. This is called second line treatment.

Your treatment may include one of the drugs above. Or you may have bevacizumab (Avastin) with interferon. 

Other possible treatments include temsirolimus (Torisel) or everolimus (Afinitor). These drugs block signals that tell cancer cells to grow. They’re called mTOR blockers.

Preventing kidney cancer from coming back

There are currently no treatments that reduce the chance of kidney cancer coming back after surgery. But a lot of research is being done to see if biological therapies can do this.

You might be offered biological therapy as part of a clinical trial.

Researchers are also developing new types of biological therapies.

Last reviewed: 
27 Jan 2016
  • Guidelines on renal cell cancer
    European Association of Urology, 2012

  • Multi-disciplinary Team (MDT) Guidance for Managing Renal Cancer

    British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS): Section of Oncology : British Uro-oncology Group (BUG), 2012

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