Radiotherapy for renal cell carcinoma: renaissance of an overlooked approach

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Abstract

| Conventional radiotherapy previously had a limited role in the definitive treatment of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), owing to the disappointing outcomes of several trials and the perceived radioresistance of this type of cancer. In this context, radiotherapy has been relegated largely to the palliation of symptoms in patients with metastatic disease, with variable rates of response. Following the availability of newer technologies that enable safe delivery of high-dose radiotherapy, stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) has become increasingly used in patients with RCC. Preclinical evidence demonstrates that RCC cells are sensitive to ablative doses of radiotherapy (≥8-10 Gy). Trials in the setting of intracranial and extracranial oligometastases, as well as primary RCC, have demonstrated excellent tumour control using this approach. Additionally, an awareness of the capacity of high-dose radiation to stimulate antitumour immunity has resulted in novel combinations of SABR with immunotherapies. Here we describe the historical application of conventional radiotherapy, the current biological understanding of the effects of radiation, and the clinical evidence supporting the use of ablative radiotherapy in RCC. We also explore emerging opportunities to combine systemic targeted agents or immunotherapies with radiation. Radiotherapy, although once an overlooked approach, is moving towards the forefront of RCC treatment.

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