Chemotherapy for Kidney Cancer

How Chemotherapy Is Administered

Chemotherapy drugs are generally administered in three ways:

  • By mouth in the form of a pill you swallow
  • By injection
  • Locally (directly to the tumor site)

Injection methods include:

  • Intra-arterial (IA): into an artery
  • Intramuscular (IM): into a muscle
  • Intravenous (IV): into a vein
  • Subcutaneous (SubQ): into the skin

Local/direct methods include:

  • Intracavitary: in the cavity (or space) where your tumor had been prior to surgery
  • Interstitial: into body tissue
  • Intraperitoneal: into your abdomen or peritoneal cavity (intestines, liver, stomach, ovaries)
  • Intrathecal: into the space between the meninges
  • Intratumoral: into the tumor
  • Intraventicular: into a ventricle
  • Convection-enhanced delivery: into your tumor using gravity or controlled flow

Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment where high-powered medications are used to kill cancer cells. It’s a systemic approach to cancer treatment, where drugs are delivered through your bloodstream, targeting cancer cells throughout your body.

Scott & White’s Approach

Scott & White’s mission to provide personalized, comprehensive care is the foundation for our chemotherapy program.

Our medical oncologists take meticulous care to determine which chemotherapy drug or drugs are best for you. Several factors impact their decision, including the type, location and stage of your specific tumor and your overall medical condition.

How Chemotherapy Is Used to Treat Cancer

Kidney cancer is infrequently treated with standard chemotherapy. However, your physician team may recommend chemotherapy in addition to or instead of other treatments for your kidney cancer.

Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment where drugs are injected, given orally or through an IV, to keep your cancer from spreading. Often chemotherapy drugs are used in combination to attack cancer cells. It’s usually given in cycles over several months.

Chemotherapy is used in some cases:

  • To shrink the size of your tumor before surgery or radiation therapy; this kind of chemotherapy is called neoadjuvant therapy
  • To kill any remaining cancer cells after surgery or radiation therapy; this kind of chemotherapy is called adjuvant chemotherapy
  • To treat metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread)
  • To treat recurrent cancer (cancer that has returned)
  • As a palliative — to relieve the symptoms caused by cancer, such as bone pain

There are a wide variety of chemotherapy drugs available to treat cancer. At Scott & White, we use all the standard chemotherapies.


Your body’s natural defense system attacks bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. With immunotherapy, your own immune defenses are used to attack your kidney cancer. Immunotherapy is standard treatment for advanced metastatic kidney cancer.

At Scott & White, we use temsirolimus to fight your kidney cancer. It’s shown to be effective and in many cases prolongs survival.

Older immunotherapy protocols including IL-2 and Interferon were more toxic, having more serious side effects, and are no longer routinely given.


In this form of chemotherapy, your physician will administer a very high dose of cancer-killing drug directly into your tumor while your tumor is deprived of its blood supply.

Using CT or MRI for guidance, your interventional radiologist will thread a tiny catheter up the artery in your thigh into the tumor in your kidney.

Special substances in the chemotherapy drug prevent the cancer-killing drug from entering other parts of your body. Consequently, a higher dose of chemotherapy drug can be used, because less of the drug circulates to healthy cells in your body.

Chemoembolization usually requires a hospital stay of two to four days. You may have reduced energy levels for a month or so afterwards.

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Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Each chemotherapy drug is different and each person’s reaction to it can vary. At Scott & White, your medical oncologist will see you through treatment and help you manage any side effects.

Here are some common side effects of chemotherapy drugs for renal cell carcinoma:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Lowered resistance to infection

For more information about possible side effects, talk to your medical oncologist.

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