Immunotherapy is the treatment of disease by inducing, enhancing or suppressing the immune system. In kidney cancer treatment the aim is to enhance the immune system so that it can recognise and destroy cancer cells.
In the past, man-made copies of cytokines have been used in treating advanced kidney cancer. Cytokines such as interferon alpha-2 and interleukin-2 can be introduced into the body to stimulate the immune system to target cancer cells and become more active in destroying them. However, these methods are rarely used today because the side-effects are often severe. Cytokine treatment is not recommended by NICE.
A new wave of immunotherapy is looking promising and has produced results at the clinical trial stage of drug development. Nivolumab is a monoclonal antibody which targets specific immune cell receptors and acts to lift an inhibition of the immune system, thereby increasing the immune function of destroying cancer cells. Nivolumab is recommended by NICE for use within the NHS as a second line treatment. We also expect that there may be many more developments in the area of immunotherapy for kidney cancer in the near future.
More details about these treatments are available as a downloadable chart, including information on the side-effects, dosage, safety and effectiveness and in the content of the video above.