The past 30 years have borne witness to a gradual evolution in the treatment landscape of advanced renal cell carcinoma (aRCC). Early immunotherapy approaches such as interferon-α and high-dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) therapy in this immunogenic tumor provided durable responses in only a minority of patients and came with toxic side effects. A growing understanding of the tumor biology elucidated pathways of tumorigenesis, which in turn revealed novel targets amenable to targeted therapies. Inhibition of angiogenesis and cell signaling emerged as cornerstones of treatment with the approval of bevacizumab and several pan-kinase and tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Though effective, their use has been limited by low rates of durable response, resistance, and side effects. The immunotherapy revolution of the past decade has led to immunotherapy-based combination regimens such as ipilimumab plus nivolumab, pembrolizumab plus axitinib, and avelumab plus axitinib, displacing single agent anti-angiogenic therapy in the first-line setting by demonstrating durable responses and improved survival over sunitinib. These immunotherapy-based combinations define first-line standard of care for aRCC today. The pipeline of second-line agents for consideration in patients who have disease progression despite immunotherapy regimens is robust but still in early stages of development.

References

PubMed