Various factors, like disease subtype, genetics and stage can all play into the treatment of kidney cancer. Types of treatment for kidney cancer consist of surgery, ablation and other local therapy, active surveillance, radiation, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy. As a result, it is important to be treated by a multidisciplinary team, including a urologist, urologic oncologist, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and surgeon.

Active Surveillance

In those undergoing active surveillance, if symptoms suggest that action is needed, then a new treatment plan would be considered.


Part or all of the kidney tumor as well as some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes can be removed during surgery, in particular, for cancer that has not spread beyond the kidneys.

Types of surgery include radical nephrectomy (surgery to remove the tumor, the entire kidney, and surrounding tissue is called a radical nephrectomy), partial nephrectomy (surgical removal of the tumor) and minimally invasive surgery, such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery.


Non-surgical procedures may be utilized if surgery is not recommended because of characteristics of the tumor or the patient’s overall health. Non-surgical procedures include radiofrequency ablation (the use of a needle inserted into the tumor to destroy the cancer with an electrical current) or cryoablation (freezing of cancer cells with a metal probe inserted through a small incision).

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies aim to treat specific genes, proteins or tissue environment that blocks the growth and spread of kidney cancer cells and limits damage to healthy cells. Targeted therapies for kidney cancer include anti-angiogenesis therapies, which stops the process of making new blood vessels; mTOR inhibitors, that target mTOR to slow kidney cancer growth; and HIF2a inhibitors, which target hypoxia-inducible factor-2 alpha.

More recently, the combination use of two targeted treatments and/or immunotherapies to treat various lines of relapsed/refractory kidney cancer.


Immunotherapy boosts the body’s immune system to treat cancer. Immunotherapies for kidney cancer treatment include interleukin-2, or IL-2, a cytokine (a protein produced by white blood cells) to destroy tumor cells; alpha-interferon, which changes the proteins on the surface of cancer cells and slows their growth; and immune checkpoint inhibitors.


Chemotherapy keeps kidney cancer cells from growing, dividing and making more cells. Regimens, that could be comprised of one or combined drugs, consist of a specific number of cycles over a set period of time.

Unfortunately, most kidney cancers are resistant to chemotherapy, but for some patients it will temporarily shrink a tumor.


Radiation, which is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells, is not effective as a primary treatment for kidney cancer. Therefore, it is rarely used alone and only used in those who have disease that has spread to ease symptoms.