Answered: Your Most Pressing Questions About New Kidney Cancer Treatments
Kidney cancer is amongst the 10 most common cancers known to mankind according to the American Cancer Society, and the disease is often fatal as the percentage of Americans diagnosed with kidney cancer continues to climb higher each year. Fortunately, the future is looking brighter with the introduction of new kidney cancer treatments and continuing research by brilliant scientists.
Today I had the honor and the privilege of conducting an interview on renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and the future of kidney cancer treatment with Dr. Saby George, a specialist in the treatment of kidney, bladder, and prostate cancers and Dena Battle, President of KCCure. Dena founded the grassroots organization KCCure on behalf of all those suffering from kidney cancer after losing her husband to this disease. It is her heartfelt hope and dream that the efforts of KCCure to further research on kidney cancer will result in a cure for this disease so that others will not have to travel the same road of loss. She serves as a bright inspiration to us all as a patient advocate.
Rates of Kidney Cancer Rising
Kaitlin: Over the last two decades, the number of Americans with kidney cancer has risen each year. The most common type of kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) generally affects people between 50 and 70 years of age. With new kidney cancer treatment options available, those affected by advanced RCC have more reasons to feel hopeful. Dr. Saby George, who specializes in the treatment of kidney, bladder, and prostate cancers and Dena Battle, President of KCCure, join us with more. Welcome!
Dr. George and Dena: Thank you for having us! Thanks, Kaitlin!
Kaitlin: Dr. George, what is RCC? Could you please describe it in detail?
Dr. George: Renal Cell Carcinoma is the commonest type of malignancy or cancer that occurs in the kidney. It is a fatal disease, and it affects nearly 63,000 patients in the US every year. As of 2018, we are anticipating that nearly 15,000 patients will die of this disease, which makes it a very fatal disease. We do need a lot of research and development in newer treatments as we march towards a cure for this disease.
Kaitlin: Yes, that is very serious. Do you as a specialist see it increasing more and more every year?
Dr. George: We don't know the reason why the incidences are on the rise every year in the past two decades, but there are certain risk factors like smoking, hypertension, obesity, and exposure to certain chemicals which are thought to be the causes of kidney cancer and those are modifiable risks. There are also unknown reasons which lead to kidney cancer. For example, there are certain familial mutations which get transmitted to generations as well as certain mutations that occur during their adulthood which can lead to kidney cancer.
Kaitlin: I see. Why are older people affected more?
Dr. George: I don't know the reason. It’s probably something to do with exposure over the years. The highest frequency in the occurrence of kidney cancer is between the ages of 50 and 70. It's a male predominant cancer.
Kaitlin: Thank you so much. What are some of the new kidney cancer treatment options available to patients?
New Kidney Cancer Treatment Approved By the FDA
Dr. George: The newer class of treatment options approved by the FDA for kidney cancer include Immuno-Oncology drugs. The newest one approved recently was a combination of Opdivo and Yervoy which belongs to classic immune-oncology drugs. Basically, what they do, is activate the immune system which was just actually turned off by the cancer. When the immune system gets activated, they go and fight the cancer, shrink the tumor, and this results in patients living longer. This was based on the file when I was a clinical investigator on this trial, (which was a global trial which included nearly 1100 patients) and I'm also a paid consultant of BMS in doing these trials. That being said, the trial demonstrated that the combination of Opdivo and Yervoy makes people live longer and have more tumor shrinkage (in patients who received this combination compared to patients who had received Sunitinib which was a competitor on that trial.) That is the reason why the FDA approved this combination.
Kaitlin: Oh, that's wonderful. It's so exciting to see the medical breakthroughs for the disease. Thank you so much, Dr. George. I have some suggested questions for Dena now. Dena, what is KCCure and how did the organization get started?
What KCCure is Doing to Promote Awareness About Kidney Cancer
Dena: KCCure is a grassroots organization of patients and doctors that came together to increase research funding for kidney cancer. Unfortunately, I came into patient advocacy after losing my husband to kidney cancer. After he passed away, I joined with the oncologist who treated my late husband, Dr. Hans Hammers. We decided to start a patient advocacy organization that would increase awareness, increase research, and increase educational materials for patients.
Kaitlin: Oh, that's wonderful. It's so exciting that you get to do that, and I'm sure thousands of people really appreciate you and all the work you've done to fund more research for kidney cancer treatments. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. What advice can you pass on to those living with RCC?
Kidney Cancer Advice for Patients
Dena: Our advice to patients: Number one to stay hopeful. New combination therapies like this are so exciting. The second piece of advice I would have is to be as educated as you possibly can. We're very grateful to industry partners like Bristol-Myers Squibb that have helped us develop some of that material that is available on our website, but knowing all the treatment options that are available to you, (really knowing your diagnosis and being an advocate for yourself so that you can make good treatment decisions with your doctor going forward) those are some of the things that we really recommend to patients.
Kaitlin: Where can our viewers and listeners go for more information?
Dena: We have information available on our website, which is KCCure.org, and we also encourage patients to visit the site Opdivo.com which is an excellent source of information about this new therapy that's available.
Kaitlin: Oh, thank you. I just want to thank you personally for your bravery as a patient advocate and for starting KCCure. You are an inspiration!
Dena: Thank you so much!
Kaitlin: That concludes our interview for today. Dr. George and Dena, thank you so much for your insightful answers regarding renal cell carcinoma and new kidney cancer treatments. I'm confident that this interview will be very helpful to our viewers and listeners regarding RCC awareness.
Dena: Thanks, Kaitlin!
Dr. George: Thank you for having us!
It is because of the efforts of dedicated specialists like Dr. Saby George and the perseverance of patient advocates like Dena Battle that kidney cancer patients and their loved ones can have hope for today and tomorrow. Awareness is an important part of the fight against kidney cancer. To learn more about the future of kidney cancer treatments, please visit: KCCure.org.