From Mark E. Johns, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist at OHC

April 4, 2022

For reasons we do not yet fully understand, the incidence of new kidney cancer cases has been on the rise since the 1990s. One contributing factor could be that healthcare providers are ordering more computed tomography (CT) scans leading to incidental findings of kidney cancer. Another possibility is the link between kidney cancer and obesity as rates of obesity are higher as well. What we do know is that ongoing research like that of OHC’s clinical trials program is bringing hope to kidney cancer patients.

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be nearly 80,000 new cases of kidney cancer this year. The life-threatening disease is twice as common in men than it is in women, and most individuals are diagnosed between the ages of 65 and 74. While surgery is the most common treatment, kidney cancer is also treated with chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapies, and immunotherapies. For kidney cancer patients who have had a nephrectomy, surgical removal of a kidney, no adjuvant therapy has proven to be effective. Adjuvant treatment is additional therapy given after the initial treatment to lower the risk of recurrence. Moreover, nearly half of these patients will experience disease recurrence.

OHC cancer research experts participated in the critical clinical trial (KEYNOTE-564) that led to the FDA approval of the first immunotherapy proven to reduce the risk of kidney cancer recurrence, Keytruda, last November. This promising new treatment option addresses an unmet need and may potentially become a new standard of care for this specific patient population.

Immunotherapies harness the power of the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Some cancer cells hide from the body’s T-cells, an important part of the immune system that helps to fight disease. Keytruda (pembrolizumab) works by preventing cancer cells from hiding and enables the immune system to work properly. It has already been approved to treat various types of cancer, including lung, colon, breast, skin, and some blood cancers. In fact, data from an OHC clinical trial also influenced the approval of Keytruda for breast cancer:

KEYNOTE-564 was a phase 3 study enrolling 994 patients who had a nephrectomy and were at high risk for disease recurrence to evaluate adjuvant immunotherapy. Six of these patients were enrolled at OHC. Clinical trial data revealed that Keytruda reduced the risk of disease recurrence by 32% when compared to placebo.

Promising therapies coupled with early disease detection offer patients the best outcomes. Kidney cancer might not cause any symptoms, but those to report to your doctor include:

  • Anemia
  • Blood in urine
  • Swelling in the ankles and/or legs
  • Pain in the side or back
  • A lump in the side or belly area
  • Unexplained weight loss and/or fever
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite

Certain genetic diseases, a family history of kidney cancer, long-term treatment for kidney cancer, high blood pressure, smoking, and being overweight can increase your risk of kidney cancer.

OHC’s nationally recognized cancer research and clinical trials program is relentless in its search for a cure. OHC partners with US Oncology Research, a network that has played a role in more than 100 FDA-approved cancer therapies. For more information on the innovative therapies offered through OHC’s clinical trials or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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