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Kidney Cancer

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults, occurring most often in men ages 50 to 70. Surgery to remove all or part of the kidney is recommended. Depending on the stage of the cancer, the procedure may include removal of the bladder, surrounding tissues or lymph nodes.

If cancer has spread to other organs, your doctor will most likely recommend additional kidney cancer treatment.

What are the Causes of Kidney Cancer?

While the exact cause is unknown, the following may increase your risk of kidney cancer:

  • Dialysis treatment
  • A family history of the disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Horseshoe kidney
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Smoking
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a hereditary disease that affects blood vessels in the brain, eyes and other body parts

How is Kidney Cancer Diagnosed?

Physicians may use the following tests to confirm a diagnosis of kidney cancer:

  • Complete medical history
  • Physical exam
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • PET scan

Your physician also may order blood tests to help determine the diagnosis, including a complete blood count (CBC), liver function and tumor markers.

Targeted Therapies or Immunotherapy

Targeted therapies target the cancer at the cellular level and have expanded the options for kidney cancer treatment.


Immunotherapy, sometimes called biologic therapy, boosts the body's own immune defenses and is considered one of the standard treatment options for advanced metastatic kidney cancer.

The building blocks of immunotherapy are biologic response modifiers (BRMs), which enhance the body's immune system and improve its ability to fight cancer. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferons are important BRMs.

Other Treatments

Other traditional but less-often-used treatments include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is usually ineffective for renal cell carcinoma and not often used. Several investigational therapies, including vaccine therapy, are also available through clinical trials.

Kidney Cancer Medications

Newer medications for kidney cancer treatment include sorafenib (Nexavar®), sunitinib (Sutent®), temsirolimus (Torisel®), everolimus (Afinitor®), pazopanib (Votrient®), axitinib (Inlyta®) and bevacizumab (Avastin®).

Clinical Trials and Research

As a teaching hospital affiliated with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center offers access to innovative treatments and technologies as soon as they are made available, whether in the development and testing phases, or after FDA approval. 

Patients who qualify also have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of treatments that would not otherwise be available to them. Search research studies and clinical trials.