Imaging response assessment of immunotherapy in patients with renal cell and urothelial carcinoma

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Purpose of review

Recent advances in anticancer immunotherapy have revolutionized the treatment of metastatic renal cell (RCC) and urothelial carcinoma. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms of action of these new therapeutic approaches, explicate the common adverse events, and highlight different imaging-based response criteria.

Recent findings

The recent introduction of immune-checkpoint inhibitors led to substantial advances in therapy of metastatic RCC and urothelial carcinoma. Because of the distinct effector mechanisms of these new substances, atypical response patterns such as transient enlargements of tumor lesions, appearance of new lesions after therapy, no measurable decrease in tumor size, or delayed responses are observed in medical imaging studies. This indicates that the established imaging-based response assessment according to the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) guidelines has shortcomings to comprehensively evaluate treatment effects.


While monitoring response to immunotherapy still relies on RECIST criteria, immune-related response criteria have been established to better address the imaging changes occurring under immunotherapy. Further studies with long-term follow-up are needed to properly identify and predict response after treatment beyond progression. Because of the expanding clinical use of immune checkpoint inhibitors, radiologists, urologist, and oncologists should be familiar with common imaging findings under this respective therapy.

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