Purpose of review: This article reviews recent developments in the use of systemic targeted therapies for the treatment of advanced clear and nonclear cell renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The genetic/molecular basis of each form of RCC is discussed and current treatments and clinical trials are described.
Recent findings: The treatment of advanced RCC continues to be a major challenge for uro-oncologists. The rapid growth in therapeutic options has brought much needed improvements in overall and progression-free survival, although durable complete responses remain elusive. The recent identification of mutations in genes involved in chromatin remodeling will likely lead to the investigation of whether components of this critical process can also be valid therapeutic targets in clear cell RCC. Similarly, efforts to decipher the molecular mechanisms underlying nonclear cell variants of RCC are beginning to engender novel therapeutic strategies directed against these rarer forms of kidney cancer. Despite the availability of multiple treatment options, several challenges remain: selecting the best first-line or subsequent therapy for a given patient, the optimal sequencing of the various agents available, designing trials with appropriate comparison arms and endpoints, and identifying well tolerated and effective drug combinations.
Summary: Agents targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor and mammalian target of rapamycin pathways remain the mainstay in the management of metastatic RCC. Ongoing and future studies are expected to facilitate the development of therapeutic regimens that incorporate agents with improved tolerability and enhanced efficacy by continuing to capitalize on the strides made by basic and translational scientists in uncovering the mechanisms underlying the various forms of RCC.