Immunotherapy for advanced kidney cancer
There have been many advances in treating advanced kidney cancer with immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors. These use the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
Learn more about:
- How are checkpoint inhibitors used?
- How are the drugs given?
- Side effects of immunotherapy
- Video: What is immunotherapy?
How are checkpoint inhibitors used?
Checkpoint inhibitors may be used at different stages of advanced kidney cancer:
- as the first-line treatment for advanced kidney cancer, either on their own or in combination with targeted therapy drugs
- as a second-line treatment when targeted therapy has stopped working
- as long-term treatment to try to control the cancer’s growth (maintenance treatment).
How are the drugs given?
The drugs are usually given into a vein through a drip (intravenously) and the treatment is repeated every 2–6 weeks. How many infusions you have depends on how you respond to the drug and whether you have any side effects. You may keep having the drugs for many months and sometimes even years.
The drugs used for kidney cancer are rapidly changing as clinical trials test newer drugs. Your medical oncologist will discuss which combination of drugs is best for your situation.
For more on this, see our general section on Immunotherapy.
Side effects of immunotherapy
The side effects of immunotherapy can vary – not everyone will react in the same way. Immunotherapy can cause inflammation in any of the organs of the body. This can cause side effects such as fatigue, skin rash, joint pain and diarrhoea.
The inflammation can lead to more serious side effects in some people, but this will be monitored closely and managed quickly.
Your doctor may be able to prescribe medicine to prevent or reduce side effects of targeted therapy and immunotherapy drugs. In some cases, your doctor may delay treatment or reduce the dose to lessen side effects.
Video: What is immunotherapy?
If you have cancer, drug therapy may play a big role in your treatment plan. Watch this short video to learn more about drug therapies, including targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
Podcast: Immunotherapy & Targeted Therapy
Dr Alarick Picardo, Urologist, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Heidi Castleden, Consumer; Donna Clifford, Urology Nurse Practitioner, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Mike Kingsley, Consumer; Prof Paul De Souza, Medical Oncologist and Professor of Medicine, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Declan Murphy, Urologist and Director of Genitourinary Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Luke O’Connor, Urology Nurse, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Shankar Siva, Radiation Oncologist and Cancer Council Victoria Colebatch Fellow, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Homi Zargar, Uro-Oncologist and Robotic Surgeon, Western Health and Royal Melbourne Hospital, VIC.
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