Latest Kidney Cancer Treatments Take a New Approach and Offer Great Promise

March 12, 2010

Kidney cancer can be one of the more difficult types of cancer to treat. In fact, once it has spread, it is not curable. However, as board certified Medical Oncologist and Hematologist Naveed Chowhan, MD, explained, some of the newest chemotherapy agents are showing very promising results for kidney cancer patients.

“The newest medications available for the treatment of kidney cancer are in a class called growth receptor inhibitors. They are promising in that they have a much higher response rate and cause far fewer side effects than previous treatments.”

Naveed Chowhan, MD, FACP, CPI
Board Certified Medical
Oncologist/Hematologist
Cancer Center of Indiana

“For years,” said Dr. Chowhan, “our best course of drug treatment involved immune therapy using Interferon, which helped trigger the defenses of the immune system to attack tumors. Unfortunately, the drug often caused negative side effects such as flu-like symptoms and fatigue, and it only achieved a 10 percent response rate. The newest chemotherapy agents have increased the response rate to 40 percent. That’s not yet where we want to be, but it represents a tremendous improvement. And the drugs are much more tolerable than Interferon. Side effects are minimal, so the quality of life for someone using the newer drugs is much better.”

New Chemotherapy Agents Work as Growth Inhibitors

According to Dr. Chowhan “The new medications work by inhibiting the multiplication of cancer cells and the growth of tumors. The first ones that became available to treat advanced kidney cancer, or renal cell carcinoma, were Sutent® and Nexavar®. They block certain receptor sites on the cancer cells, which inhibit the transmission of chemicals called enzymes that signal those cancer cells to grow and spread. The drugs also help prevent new blood vessels from forming and giving tumors the nutrients and oxygen they need to grow. These drugs help stop the progression of the disease and can actually cause its regression.”

“The next evolution of these growth receptor inhibitors is a drug called Afinitor®,” explained Dr. Chowhan. “In addition to reducing the multiplication of cancer cells and reducing the function of new blood vessels that feed tumors, it also reduces the uptake of glucose that the cancer cells use to fuel their growth.”

What Can You Do to Help Keep Your Kidneys Healthy?

“One of the most important things you can do for your kidneys is to have annual blood and urine tests during your regular physical to check their health and function.”

Krishna Konijeti, MD
Board Certified Nephrologist
Nephrology Associates of Kentuckiana

Your kidneys perform functions that are essential to life. As Krishna Konijeti, MD, a board certified nephrologist, explained, “These two fistsized organs filter waste products from your blood, which prevents the buildup of deadly toxins. They regulate the body’s salt, potassium and pH levels, and play an important role in red blood cell production, blood pressure regulation and calcium metabolism.”

Here, Dr. Konijeti offers tips that can help protect your kidneys’ health.

  • Have annual screenings. “It is important to have an annual screening during your regular physical to check for the presence of blood or protein in the urine,” said Dr. Konijeti. “And a blood test can check kidney function and see if your electrolytes are stable.”
  • Keep yourself well hydrated.
  • Control high blood pressure. According to Dr. Konijeti, “Hypertension can be very damaging to the kidneys. Make sure you keep it well controlled and monitor it regularly.”
  • Restrict your intake of salt and caffeine.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking and the use of all tobacco products.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid excessive use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDS.
  • Avoid repeated exposure to the IV dyes required in certain medical tests.

Your kidneys filter waste products from your blood and play an important role in the production of healthy red blood cells. Proper functioning kidneys are essential to life.