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Targeted Therapies for Kidney Cancer: What You Need to Know

Dr. Pinaki Mahato

Dr. Pinaki Mahato, Consultant – Medical Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre, Vadodara.

In recent years, advancements in medical research have led to the development of targeted therapies for various cancers, offering new hope for patients. These therapies focus on specific molecules and pathways critical to cancer cell growth and survival, providing a more precise approach than traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Understanding these options is crucial for patients and healthcare providers in managing and treating cancer effectively.

 Kidney cancer, also known as renal cancer, originates in the kidneys and can lead to significant health challenges if not detected and treated early. There are several types of kidney cancer, with Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) being the most common, accounting for about 90% of cases. Other types include Urothelial Carcinoma, Wilms Tumor (primarily in children), and Sarcomatoid Carcinoma. Each type’s biological behavior and treatment response varies, necessitating different therapeutic approaches.

What are the Symptoms of Kidney Cancer?
Early-stage kidney cancer often presents no symptoms, making it challenging to detect. However, as the cancer progresses, symptoms may include:

 ● Blood in the urine
● Persistent pain in the side or back
● A mass or lump in the abdomen
● Unexplained weight loss
● Fatigue
● Fever

What Causes Kidney Cancer?
The exact cause of kidney cancer remains unclear, but several risk factors have been identified that contribute to its development. Smoking significantly increases the risk, as harmful chemicals in tobacco can damage kidney cells. Obesity is another major risk factor, with excess body weight linked to higher incidences of kidney cancer due to changes in hormone levels and chronic inflammation. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, has also been associated with an increased risk of kidney cancer, potentially due to the damage it causes to blood vessels and kidneys over time. A family history of kidney cancer can elevate risk, suggesting a genetic predisposition in some cases. Additionally, certain inherited conditions, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, are known to predispose individuals to kidney cancer, indicating a genetic component in its development. Understanding these risk factors is crucial for early detection and prevention strategies.

Diagnosis of Kidney Cancer
Diagnosis typically involves a combination of imaging tests and biopsies. Key diagnostic methods include:
● Ultrasound: Helps detect masses in the kidneys.
● CT Scan: Provides detailed cross-sectional images of the kidney.
● MRI: Offers high-resolution images, useful in certain cases.
● Biopsy: Involves taking a small tissue sample from the kidney to examine for cancer cells.
● Blood and Urine Tests: Used to assess kidney function and detect abnormalities.

Targeted Therapies for Kidney Cancer
Targeted therapies have transformed the treatment paradigm for kidney cancer by attacking specific cancer cells without damaging normal cells. Key targeted therapies include:

Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors (TKIs): Drugs like sunitinib and pazopanib, which block enzymes promoting cancer cell growth, are often first-line treatments for advanced RCC.
mTOR Inhibitors: Drugs like everolimus inhibit the mTOR protein, which is involved in cell division and cancer growth.
VEGF Inhibitors: Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody that targets the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), essential for tumor blood vessel formation.
Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors: Drugs like nivolumab boost the immune response against cancer and are often used with targeted therapies.

The advent of targeted therapies has significantly improved the diagnoses and treatment for many patients with kidney cancer. These therapies, tailored to the specific characteristics of the cancer cells, offer a more effective and less toxic alternative to conventional treatments. As research continues, new targeted therapies are likely to emerge, providing even more options for patients battling kidney cancer. Early detection remains crucial, so awareness of symptoms and risk factors is essential for timely diagnosis and treatment.


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