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Immunotherapy for metastatic renal cell cancer: effect on the primary tumor.

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Department of Urology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Harper Hospital, Detroit, Michigan.


The traditional approach to immunotherapy for metastatic renal cell cancer, to first reduce the tumor burden by nephrectomy and then offer systemic therapy, has been challenged recently. There is mounting evidence that objective responses in the metastatic disease can be achieved without prior nephrectomy, although responses in the primary tumor are much less frequent. We describe our experience that some patients may, in fact, have significant responses in extensive local disease and become surgical candidates after systemic immunotherapy. A 46-year-old patient who presented with a large renal primary tumor and pulmonary metastases was treated with high-dose interleukin 2 therapy. A complete response in the lung and partial response in the primary tumor was achieved. The patient then underwent resection of his primary tumor, and on histological evaluation only minimal residual cancer was present. He has no evidence of disease at 14 months. This case demonstrates that immunotherapy can achieve not only objective responses at metastatic sites but also in the primary tumor.

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