Other biological treatments are also being used for kidney cancer. These include bevacizumab (Avastin), sorafenib (Nexavar) and temsirolimus (Torisel), which have been shown to stop or slow the growth of advanced kidney cancer. In the United States they have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, in the UK, (NICE) has given guidance that these drugs are currently too expensive for the amount of benefit they give, and so they are not widely available on the NHS. You may still have them as part of your private health care plan in the UK.
Bevacizumab, also called Avastin, is an antibody which is used to treat bowel, lung and kidney cancer. It is an anti-angiogenesis treatment which means it blocks the formation of blood vessels. Without a blood supply, cancerous cells are starved of nutrients and not able to grow.
Sorafenib, also called Nexavar, is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor which works in a similar way to sunitinib to stop or slow the growth of kidney cancer.
Temsirolimus, also called Torisel, is used to treat advanced kidney cancer and advanced mantle cell lymphoma. It is a kinase inhibitor which specifically inhibits the protein mTOR. Inhibition of mTOR stops or slows the growth of cancerous cells.
Other potential biological treatments
Other treatments are still very much at the investigation stage and we have only briefly mentioned them here as they are not yet available outside clinical trials. To search for active clinical trials in the area of Kidney Cancer, click here.
There is a large amount of on-going research into the use of vaccines as a kidney cancer treatment. Vaccines are used for patients who already have kidney cancer to stop or slow the growth of cancerous cells. There are also vaccines which are used after surgery to try and reduce the risk of the cancer returning. The vaccines aim to stimulate the body’s immune response. Vaccines are currently only available in clinical trials.
New immunotherapy drugs
Immunotherapy drugs are similar to interferon and IL-2. New drugs include GM-CSF (a growth factor that tells the body to grow white blood cells) and IL-12 (another ‘chemical messenger’ of the body’s immune system).
Drugs to stop tumours making blood vessels
Treatments that stop tumours making blood vessels are called anti-angiogenics. One drug used to do this is thalidomide, which is safely used to treat myelomas (cancer of the plasma cells of the blood). Researchers hope thalidomide can be used to treat other forms of cancer. It has been tested in combination with interferon and IL-2 for advanced kidney cancer.