Targeted therapy for kidney cancer

Targeted therapy drugs are the main treatment for kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced kidney cancer). The aim of treatment is to control the cancer for as long as possible.

Targeted therapies for kidney cancer interfere with signals that tell cancer cells to grow. They also stop the cancer from making the new blood vessels, which it needs to grow. Most targeted therapies for kidney cancer are taken as tablets but some are given into a vein (intravenously). You usually have the treatment as an outpatient.

Most people are given either sunitinib (Sutent®) or pazopanib (Votrient®) as their first treatment. Both drugs are taken as tablets.

You usually take sunitinib daily for four weeks. This is followed by a two week rest period off the drug. This makes up a six-week period called a treatment cycle. At the end of six weeks, the next cycle of treatment begins. You usually take tablets for four weeks and then have two weeks off.

Pazopanib is usually taken once a day and is also given in treatment cycles.

Other targeted therapy drugs that may be used to treat advanced kidney cancer include:

  • axitinib (Inlyta®) – given as a tablet
  • everolimus (Afinitor®) – given as a tablet
  • sorafenib (Nexavar®) – given as a tablet
  • temsirolimus (Torisel®) – given into a vein (intravenously) as an infusion
  • bevacizumab (Avastin®) – given into a vein as an infusion. You have it in combination with a drug called interferon alpha which helps your immune system to fight the cancer.

You will usually continue with a targeted therapy drug for as long as it is keeping the tumour under control. You will have CT scans from time to time to check this. Some people may need to stop treatment with a targeted therapy if they have very troublesome side effects.

Back to Targeted (biological) therapies explained