Immunotherapy drugs encourage the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. These treatments are occasionally used to treat advanced kidney cancer.

There are many clinical trials looking at new immunotherapy drugs that may be useful in future in treating kidney cancer.

Interferon alpha-2a (Roferon-A®)

Interferon can be used to treat advanced kidney cancer and is sometimes given along with bevacizumab (Avastin®).

Interferon is naturally produced by the body in small amounts and can also be made as a drug. It has effects on the body’s immune system that can help fight some cancers.

Interferon is usually given three times a week by injection under the skin (subcutaneously). You, a relative or carer can be taught how to do this at home. In the first couple of weeks, interferon often causes flu-like symptoms, such as chills, a high temperature, headaches, and aching in the back, joints and muscles. Your doctor can prescribe medicine, such as paracetamol, to reduce these symptoms. Another common side effect of interferon is feeling very tired (fatigue).

Aldesleukin (interleukin-2, Proleukin®)

Aldesleukin is an artificial version of a protein that occurs naturally in the body. You have it as a drip into a vein (intravenously).

This treatment is very specialised and only given in a few units in the UK. You’ll need to stay in hospital to have it. Common side effects of aldesleukin are flu-like symptoms, feeling sick or losing your appetite. It may also cause some serious side effects on the heart and lungs, so people having aldesleukin are closely monitored.

Back to Treating

Making treatment decisions

Your doctors may tell you there are different options for your treatment. Having the right information will help you make the right decision for you.

Surgery for kidney cancer

Surgery involves removing all or part of the cancer with an operation. It is an important treatment for many cancers.

Monitoring kidney cancer

Sometimes, active treatment may not be immediately necessary or appropriate. Doctors may suggest monitoring small, low-grade cancers.

Targeted (biological) therapies

Targeted (biological) therapies interfere with the way cells grow and divide. Find out how they may be used to treat kidney (renal) cancer.

Radiotherapy for kidney cancer

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. It may relieve symptoms caused by kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Clinical trials

Many people are offered a trial as part of treatment. Find out more to help you decide if a trial is right for you.

Life after cancer treatment

You might be thinking about how to get back to normal following treatment. Find advice, information and support about coping with and after cancer.