There are more treatment options today than ever before to control kidney cancer or help you live a full life with kidney cancer.
Our kidney cancer specialists work closely with you, your family and each other to get you back to health. At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, we provide all standard therapies for kidney cancer and offer you access to the latest innovations through clinical trials.
“My goal is to help you regain your health, independence and wellness following a cancer diagnosis.”
— Sarah Psutka, MD, urologic oncologist
Kidney cancer treatment at Fred Hutch is highly customized for each patient’s needs.
Your physician, supported by a team of kidney cancer experts:
Your doctor will walk you and your caregiver through your treatment plan. You will have a chance to discuss your personal preferences and options, and you will decide together how to move forward.
The treatment plan we design for you depends on many factors, including:
Because there are different types of kidney cancer, there is no one way to treat everyone. However, many people are treated using surgery, radiation, targeted therapy or immunotherapy. Physicians may use these one at a time or combine them.
At Fred Hutch, our standard always involves caring for you as a whole person. We help you get relief from side effects and provide many other forms of support, like integrative medicine, nutrition counseling, pain management, palliative care, rehabilitation and physical therapy.
Our patients also have the option to receive promising, new kidney cancer therapies that you can get only through a clinical trial. Many people come to Fred Hutch for access to these trials. Your care team will tell you about trials that might be right for you, so you can think about joining them.
There are more kidney cancer treatment options than ever before. Although the most common treatment for localized kidney cancer is still surgery, many new immunotherapies and targeted therapies have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in recent years to treat metastatic kidney cancer.
We match your treatment plan to you. Learn more about the treatment types offered at Fred Hutch.
Surgery is the most common treatment for kidney cancer that has not spread outside of the kidney.
There are several procedures your surgeon may use, depending on:
Whenever possible, we use laparoscopic or robotic surgery techniques, making small keyhole incisions and using telescopic instruments.
Surgery for kidney cancer may require:
Targeted therapies are relatively new for treating kidney cancer. They work in a more focused way than chemotherapy. Often used for advanced kidney cancer, these therapies may shrink tumors and control their growth for long periods.
Targeted therapies commonly used for kidney cancer include:
Your care team will talk with you about the specific drugs we recommend for you, how you will receive them, your treatment schedule and what to expect. We will also explain how to take the best possible care of yourself during treatment and after, and we will connect you with medical and supportive care resources at Fred Hutch.
Immunotherapies are some of the latest advances in kidney cancer care. They use the power of your immune system to fight your cancer.
The main immunotherapy medicines used in kidney cancer are:
Radiation therapy is typically used to treat kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, especially the brain or bones. Radiation therapy is painless and noninvasive, and each treatment takes only minutes.
Radiation may be used:
Different types of radiation are used for different situations. Two examples are radiosurgery and intensity-modulated or image-guided radiotherapy (IMRT/IGRT).
Radiosurgery is an advanced form of highly focused, high-dose radiation therapy that can kill tumors in fewer treatments than conventional radiation treatment — usually one to five sessions rather than daily sessions for several weeks. It has a greater than 95 percent chance of killing small tumors.
There are many names for this type of treatment, such as:
Gamma Knife is specifically designed for treating tumors in the brain. It is not an actual knife or scalpel (neither is CyberKnife) — instead, it uses carefully focused beams of radiation. Patients are usually treated in one session.
To do IMRT/IGRT, a doctor will use computed tomography (CT) to scan the tumor and create beams of radiation that closely match the tumor's shape. The beams have different shapes and intensities (strengths), so they can deliver a higher dose of radiation to the tumor and lower doses to nearby healthy tissue.
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) does not respond well to chemotherapy. But it may be used to treat certain patients with advanced RCC and transitional cell carcinoma as well as patients with uncommon types of kidney cancer, including medullary renal cell carcinoma or sarcomatoid renal cell carcinomas.
While you are in active treatment, your kidney cancer care team sees you regularly for exams and tests to check:
We update your treatment plan based on the best scientific evidence as well as how your disease responds and what you prefer.
Along with treating your kidney cancer, Fred Hutch provides a range of services to support you and your caregiver before, during and after treatment. This is part of how we take care of you — not just your disease.
From registered dietitians to chaplains, we have experts who specialize in caring for people with cancer. We understand this may be one of the most intense and challenging experiences you and your family ever go through. We are here to provide the care you need.
Learn more about Supportive Care
If your loved one is getting targeted therapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, there are many ways you can help. Caregiving during active treatment for kidney cancer often means doing tasks like these:
When your disease is in remission and your active treatment ends, it is still important to get follow-up care on a regular basis. At follow-up visits, you will see the same Fred Hutch team who treated your kidney cancer. They will check your overall health and look for signs that your cancer has come back (signs of recurrence).
Your team will also help with any long-term side effects (which go on after treatment ends) or late effects (which may start after treatment is over).