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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 367354, 8 pages
Review Article

Immunotherapy in Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma: A Comprehensive Review

Division of Hematology Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, 200 Hawkins Drive C32GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA

Received 27 November 2014; Accepted 4 March 2015

Academic Editor: Aziz A. Chentoufi

Copyright © 2015 Rachna Raman and Daniel Vaena. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Localized renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is often curable by surgery alone. However, metastatic RCC is generally incurable. In the 1990s, immunotherapy in the form of cytokines was the mainstay of treatment for metastatic RCC. However, responses were seen in only a minority of highly selected patients with substantial treatment-related toxicities. The advent of targeted agents such as vascular endothelial growth factor tyrosine kinase inhibitors VEGF-TKIs and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors led to a change in this paradigm due to improved response rates and progression-free survival, a better safety profile, and the convenience of oral administration. However, most patients ultimately progress with about 12% being alive at 5 years. In contrast, durable responses lasting 10 years or more are noted in a minority of those treated with cytokines. More recently, an improved overall survival with newer forms of immunotherapy in other malignancies (such as melanoma and prostate cancer) has led to a resurgence of interest in immune therapies in metastatic RCC. In this review we discuss the rationale for immunotherapy and recent developments in immunotherapeutic strategies for treating metastatic RCC.