Metastatic Kidney Cancer Treatment

Kidney cancer can spread to other parts of the body, often to the bones, brain, lungs or liver. For patients with metastatic kidney cancer, several therapies can successfully extend survival and relieve pain.

Targeted Chemotherapy

New “targeted” chemotherapy drugs are able to extend overall survival for patients with metastatic kidney cancer. These new drugs affect key molecular processes that make cancer cells thrive and multiply. By inhibiting these processes, the drugs can help block the proliferation and spread of cancer cells and the growth of new blood vessels within tumors.

Kidney cancer is a very different disease in different people, and patients without high-risk disease characteristics can respond to these drugs for a very long time. There are currently five FDA-approved targeted chemotherapeutic agents for treating metastatic kidney cancer. Some of these drugs are oral medications. There is data to suggest that the efficacy of chemotherapy can be increased by surgically removing any intact primary tumors. 

Radiation Therapy

Kidney cancers that have spread to other parts of the body can also be treated with radiation therapy. For these patients, radiation treatments can relieve pain, principally bone pain caused by spread of the tumor to the bone.

There are two options: 

  • External beam radiation is often used when there are limited number of bone tumors that require treatment.
  • Patients who are experiencing bone pain in several different sites can be treated with radiopharmaceuticals — radioactive drugs that collect in bone tissue and shrink bone metastases. 

Palliative Embolization to Lessen Symptoms

Patients with advanced kidney cancer for whom surgery is not an option and who are experiencing significant kidney pain can receive embolization therapy to lessen symptoms. An interventional radiologist uses minimally invasive techniques to block the blood supply to the tumor. Although embolization cannot cure the cancer at this stage, it can reduce kidney inflammation and pain.

Osteoplasty to Relieve Pain Due to Bone Fractures

Many patients with bone metastases suffer bone fractures. Osteoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure in which an interventional radiologist injects a special type of cement at a fracture site to reinforce the bone. Patients can experience significant pain relief.


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Clinical Cancer Center, Froedtert Hospital 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

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