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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Biological treatments for kidney cancer

Biological treatments work by encouraging the body’s immune system to attack the cancer. They may be used to try to control locally advanced kidney cancer and kidney cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. For some people they may help to shrink the cancer or slow its growth.

Interferon alpha

Interferon is a type of immunotherapy for kidney cancer. It is a substance normally produced by the body to fight viral infections such as flu, but has a number of effects on the immune system. Interferon can be produced in the laboratory.

The type of interferon used to treat cancer of the kidney is called interferon alpha-2a (Roferon-A®). It is usually given three times a week by injection under the skin (subcutaneously). The injections may be slightly uncomfortable. You, or your relatives, can be taught to give the injections at home, and you can use either a pen-injection device or a pre-filled syringe, which makes it easier to do this. A free, home-nurse support service is available to help new patients with their first few injections. The nurses can also give advice on managing any side effects that may occur. Your GP, practice nurse or district nurse can also help if necessary.

In the first week or two of treatment, interferon often causes side effects similar to flu symptoms – especially chills, a high temperature, headaches, and aching in the back, joints and muscles. You may also feel tired, sick, and lose your appetite. Although these symptoms are uncomfortable at the time, they tend to become less severe as the treatment continues.


Another biological treatment sometimes used for cancer of the kidney is aldesleukin (Proleukin®). This is an artificial version of a protein called interleukin-2 (IL-2) that occurs naturally in the body and stimulates a type of blood cell (lymphocytes) to fight infection.

Aldesleukin is either given as an injection under the skin or by drip into a vein (intravenously). It is usually only given in specialist cancer centres. The most common side effects of aldesleukin include: a high temperature; headaches; feeling sick and being sick (nausea and vomiting); weight gain; low blood pressure; skin rashes and itching; loss of appetite; and diarrhoea. These side effects can be upsetting but are temporary and will disappear when the treatment has finished. It is important to tell your doctor or nurse if your side effects are severe. They will be able to treat some of the side effects.

Doctors are looking at aldesleukin to see how useful it is in treating cancer of the kidney. If this treatment might be appropriate for you, your hospital specialist may be able to refer you to one of the hospitals carrying out trials.

Via: http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk

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