Predicting Treatment Response in Kidney Cancer Patients

By Sara Bondell - March 22, 2019

The most common type of kidney cancer is clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). What makes the disease challenging is its high risk of recurrence and death from advanced and metastatic disease. The good news is, the emergence of immunotherapy drugs has improved outcomes in some metastatic ccRCC patients.

But how can your doctor tell if you will benefit from immunotherapy?

That’s what Moffitt Cancer Center physicians and scientists are working to find out. With the help from a grant from the American Urological Association, a Moffitt team is studying the immune profile of ccRCC tumor samples for the first time.

Dr. Brandon Manley, genitourinary oncologist

“Our hypothesis is that response to immunotherapy can be predicted by characterizing and analyzing locally advanced and metastatic ccRCC using immune and mutational profiles,” said genitourinary oncologist Dr. Brandon Manley.

The study is also evaluating the significance of a certain gene alterations when it comes to immunotherapy response. The research team will use advanced digital microscopy techniques with immunofluorescence along with next-generation sequencing to examine tissue samples that are already banked at Moffitt. Some of the samples responded to immunotherapy and others did not. 

“While ccRCC has long been thought of as a type of tumor that produces an immune response, the overall response rate to immunotherapy has been lower than in other immunogenic tumors like melanoma and non-small cell lung carcinoma,” said Manley.

Through this study’s mapping of the immune tumor microenvironment and correlating it with mutational profiles, Manley says they hope to be able to determine which patients would respond to certain therapies before starting treatment. That could result in stopping the cancer earlier in its progression and allowing for a greater chance of survival.

The study will last about two years, and the results could be used to generate larger validation studies.

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