Successes and limitations of targeted therapies in renal cell carcinoma

Prog Tumor Res. 2014:41:98-112. doi: 10.1159/000355906. Epub 2014 Feb 17.


Until recently, the standard treatment for metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) was nonspecific immunotherapy based on interleukin-2 or interferon-α. This was associated with a modest survival benefit and with significant clinical toxicities. The understanding of numerous molecular pathways in RCC, including HIF, VEGF, mTOR, and the consecutive use of targeted therapies since the beginning of 2005 have significantly improved outcomes for patients with metastatic RCC with an overall survival greater than 2 years. At present, at least 7 targeted agents are approved for first and consecutive lines of treatment of clear cell metastatic RCC. Long-term benefit and extended survival may be achieved through the optimal use of targeted therapies: optimal dosing, adverse event management and treatment duration and compliance. Advances in the finding of prognostic factors highlight the potential for personalizing treatment for patients with metastatic RCC. Data regarding the best sequencing of targeted therapies, predictive biomarkers, best timing of surgery, patient risk profiles, understanding of resistance mechanisms and safety of targeted therapies are growing and will provide a further step ahead in the management of advanced RCC. In parallel, a new class of therapeutics is emerging in RCC: immunotherapy; in particular check-point blockade antibodies are showing very promising results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Kidney Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / genetics
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / trends


  • Antineoplastic Agents