Advanced kidney cancer treatments

In cases where the kidney cancer is advanced or has spread and surgery alone is not sufficient to control the disease, there are a number of treatment options available.

Targeted therapies

These drugs have all been specifically designed to target biological changes that occur in kidney tumours, and stop tumours from being able to grow. There are three types of targeted therapy, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, mTOR inhibitors, and monoclonal antibody therapy.

The Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs) inhibit the tyrosine kinase signaling pathway, thus blocking cell growth and division. TKIs used to treat kidney cancer are Sorafenib, Sunitinib, Pazopanib and Axitinib.

mTOR inhibitors also prevent tumour cells from growing by inhibiting the growth protein mTOR. mTOR inhibitors used to treat kidney cancer are Everolimus and Temsirolimus.

Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody used to treat advanced kidney cancer. It works by sticking to a protein called VEGF, which stops it working. This prevents the tumour being able to grow blood vessels, essentially cutting off its food supply.


Immunotherapies boost the immune system’s ability to recognise and kill cancer cells. The two immunotherapies currently used to treat advanced kidney cancer are interferon and Interleukin-2 therapy.

A table of current immunotherapy trials in RCC is available here.


Chemotherapy is not normally used to treat kidney cancer as targeted therapies are more effective. However, chemotherapy might be an effective treatment for any secondary tumours that have been caused by the original kidney tumour spreading to other parts of the body. Additionally, several clinical trials are testing if combining chemotherapy with targeted therapies is more effective than targeted therapy alone.


Like chemotherapy, radiotherapy is not normally used to treat kidney cancer as it is not as effective as other treatments. However, radiotherapy is often used to treat kidney cancer that has spread to the brain.

Experimental Treatments

A number of new treatments for kidney cancer are currently being tested and are only available as part of a clinical trial. These include:

Publication date: December 2014
Review date: December 2017