Immunotherapy for Kidney Cancer

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses medications to boost the patient’s immune system so that it can more effectively identify and destroy cancer cells. This type of treatment is used for a variety of cancers, including renal cell cancer (kidney cancer).

Types of immunotherapy used for treating kidney cancer

There are actually many different types of immunotherapy, which work in different ways – several of which have proven effective in treating kidney cancer. Immunotherapy can help shrink tumors or slow their growth and has been shown to improve survival in patients with advanced kidney cancer.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

The body’s immune cells have proteins on them called “checkpoints” that need to be activated in order to trigger an immune system response. Sometimes, cancer cells are able to manipulate these checkpoints to avoid being detected and destroyed. An immune checkpoint inhibitor is a type of immunotherapy that works by targeting the specific proteins that need to be turned on in order to restore the body’s immune response against the cancer cells.

Some examples of this type of immunotherapy that are used for treating kidney cancer include:

  • Nivolumab (Opdivo®)
  • Ipilimumab (Yervoy®)
  • Avelumab (Bavencio®)
  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®)


Interleukins are a type of protein that boost the immune system in a general manner. For this form of immunotherapy, man-made interleukins are delivered to the patient through intravenous infusions. Cytokines that are sometimes used to shrink kidney tumors include interleukin (IL-2).

Moffitt’s approach to kidney cancer immunotherapy

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Urologic Oncology Program has a renowned kidney cancer team that comprises physicians from multiple specialties who collaborate to develop an individualized treatment plan for every patient. This is especially important for treatment options like immunotherapy, which are often integrated alongside other therapies and require an experienced team to manage possible treatment-related side effects. A multispecialty approach ensures that patients are able to see the best possible outcomes and quality of life.

Moffitt is known for its groundbreaking research and robust clinical trials program, which includes immunotherapy options for the treatment of kidney cancer. These efforts, along with our comprehensive clinical treatment and supportive care, have earned us designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.

To learn more about how immunotherapy is used for treating kidney cancer or to consult with an oncologist specializing in the treatment of kidney cancer, contact Moffitt by calling 1-888-663-3488, or complete a new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required to visit Moffitt.