Over the past decade, the treatment landscape for patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) has evolved dramatically. The therapeutic options available have expanded and now include immune-checkpoint inhibitors, novel targeted agents and combination strategies, and thus optimal patient selection and treatment sequencing are increasingly pertinent for optimizing clinical outcomes. A better understanding of the underlying biology of the tumour and its microenvironment continues to drive the inception of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Furthermore, many biomarkers robustly associated with treatment and disease-specific outcomes have been identified, and their integration into clinical decision-making for patients with advanced-stage disease will soon become a reality. Herein, we review relevant aspects of the molecular biology of metastatic RCC, with an emphasis on predictive and prognostic biomarkers, and suggest tailored algorithms to individualize and guide treatment approaches for specific subgroups of patients.