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Kidney cancer treatments

We target kidney tumors with a variety treatments and technologies. Our kidney cancer program offers radiation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy and several other treatment options. Your multidisciplinary team of kidney cancer experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options based on your unique diagnosis and needs. Treatment options for kidney cancer may include:


Surgery is the first-line treatment for most renal cell carcinoma patients at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). Depending on the type and stage of the disease, we may perform a variety of procedures. We may also remove nearby fatty tissue to test for the presence of cancer. If kidney cancer has metastasized, your treatment team may combine surgery with targeted therapy or immunotherapy. Your team of doctors will assess the various aspects of your disease and recommend a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. Examples of surgical procedures used to treat kidney cancer include:

  • Radical nephrectomy removes the entire affected kidney. Often, the adrenal gland is also removed if it is involved with, or very close to, the tumor.
  • Laparoscopic radical nephrectomy (LRN) requires less recovery time and causes less bleeding than open surgery. An LRN is performed by making a few small incisions, instead of one large incision. Once the incisions are made, a surgical oncologist uses a laparoscope (long tube with small camera attached to the end) to help guide removal of the kidney.
  • Partial nephrectomy is performed when it is important to preserve kidney function. This includes people who have cancer in both kidneys, low kidney function, or people with one kidney. Your surgical oncologist may recommend this surgery even if these issues don’t pertain to you, to maintain as much kidney function as possible.
  • Robotic surgery with the da Vinci® Surgical System may be an option for patients who are candidates for kidney cancer surgery, since it offers a minimally invasive alternative to a radical nephrectomy. Surgery using the da Vinci System may result in fewer side effects.

Chemotherapy may be recommended for patients diagnosed with renal sarcoma, which is an extremely rare form of kidney cancer.

Interventional radiology

Interventional radiology allows doctors to visualize tumors in the kidneys and perform real-time image-guided interventional procedures. NanoKnife®, a minimally invasive interventional radiology procedure, may be an option for some kidney cancer patients with a tumor that is considered inoperable. The NanoKnife system is designed to help to spare normal adjacent tissues, and reduce damage to surrounding healthy cell tissue, blood vessels and other important structures.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is designed to identify receptors and proteins unique to specific cancer cells. Once attached to the targeted cancer cells, these drugs kill the cells or help other therapies, such as chemotherapy, work better. Among the drugs used in targeted therapy are so-called tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which target specific enzymes called protein kinases that help regulate cell growth. They also may inhibit new blood supplies that help the cancer survive, causing the cancer cells to die.


Immunotherapy is an innovative treatment option for advanced cancers, including kidney cancer that has metastasized. We use two types of immunotherapy to treat kidney cancer:

  • Checkpoint inhibitors work by disrupting the chemical signals that cancer cells send to allow them to hide from the immune system. Most immunotherapy drugs used to treat renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer, target the protein PD-1, a key receptor that helps regulate the body"s immune response. More checkpoints are actively being studied in combination with other targeted therapies. Ask your medical oncologist about available clinical trials for kidney cancer at CTCA®.
  • Cytokines are molecules that help regulate immune activity. The cytokine drugs alpha-interferon (IFN-alpha) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) are used to treat some types of kidney cancer. IFN-alpha may help slow or stop cancer cells from dividing and make them more vulnerable to an immune attack. IL-2 is a natural protein that stimulates the growth of immune cells and activates them to destroy tumor cells.

Learn more about kidney cancer types

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