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Treatment Options


Drug Therapy Options for Advanced Kidney Cancer

The next treatment step: cancer medications

After you and your doctor have discussed surgery, you will talk about the next step in your treatment journey. This step may be a cancer medicine.


There are several things to think about when choosing medicine on your treatment journey. Different medicines are appropriate for different patients, work in different ways, and have different side effects. As different individuals will react differently to the same medicines, your doctor will not be able to predict exactly what your experience will be. Be sure to ask your doctor about the side effects of the drug(s) he or she recommends so that you know what to expect. Remember, some people are not bothered by certain side effects as much as other people are bothered by certain side effects.


Another factor in your decision making will be whether you and your doctor think an oral or an intravenous (IV) medicine is appropriate for you.

  • Oral medications are tablets that you can take by mouth at home
  • Intravenous (IV) medications are given through your vein and must be administered at a doctor's office or health care facility. You have to go to your doctor's office to receive them

Many drugs for advanced kidney cancer are taken orally. This eliminates the need to receive treatment in your doctor's office or health care facility.


Understanding your advanced kidney cancer medication options

When surgery alone is not enough to control kidney cancer, doctors may recommend specific kinds of medicine to help fight the disease. Today, there are a number of different treatments available to treat advanced kidney cancer. In fact, over the past decade, there have been a number of options made available in the treatment of advanced kidney cancer.


When going over your advanced kidney cancer treatment options, you and your doctor will decide which medicine is right for you. Some medicines can be used at any point in your treatment journey, while others cannot. Some medicines are taken orally, and some of them are given as IV medicines in your doctor's office. Whichever medicine you and your doctor choose for you to take on your treatment journey, be sure to take it exactly as instructed by your doctor.


AFINITOR is indicated for the treatment of adults with advanced kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma or RCC) when certain other medicines (ie, Sutent® [sunitinib] or Nexavar® [sorafenib]) have not worked.

Treatment options include:

  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors
  • Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors
  • Immunotherapy

Surgical Options for Advanced Kidney Cancer

Choosing the right surgery for you

The first step in treating kidney cancer is usually surgery. Surgery to remove a kidney is called nephrectomy. There are several types of nephrectomy. You and your surgeon will decide which type is right for you.


  • Radical nephrectomy removes the whole kidney and some small organs and tissue near the kidney. This is the most common surgery for advanced kidney cancer
  • Partial nephrectomy removes only the tumor and nearby kidney tissue. The rest of the kidney is left in place. This type of surgery is used when the tumor is small (ie, less than four centimeters). It is also used if the patient only has one kidney or if there is cancer in both kidneys

What to expect after your surgery

After surgery you may feel weak and tired for several weeks, but it is important to remember that people do not really need two kidneys. One healthy kidney will work harder to make up for the kidney that was removed. You can even live with only part of one kidney if some of it is removed by surgery.

An alternative step to surgery

Another procedure you and your doctor may talk about as you create your treatment plan is arterial embolization. This procedure involves blocking the blood supply to a tumor. Blocking the blood supply makes the tumor shrink.

Arterial embolization has many uses:

  • It can take the place of surgery as some people cannot have surgery, for example, because a kidney is already damaged
  • It can be used before surgery to shrink the tumor. This may make surgery easier to perform
  • It may also be used to help relieve the symptoms of advanced kidney cancer, such as pain or blood in the urine

What happens during arterial embolization?

If arterial embolization is a step you and your doctor decide to take, you will need to go to the hospital. Your doctor will insert a narrow tube into your leg. The tube will go up to the main blood vessel of your kidney. Your doctor will inject a substance into the blood vessel that will block blood from flowing into the kidney. Blocking blood keeps the tumor from getting oxygen and other nutrients it needs to grow.