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Cancer Health Center

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Wilms Tumor and Other Childhood Kidney Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview


The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. Systemic chemotherapy is used to treat Wilms tumor and other childhood kidney tumors.

Sometimes the tumor cannot be removed by surgery because it is too close to important organs or blood vessels, too large to remove, cancer is in both kidneys or the patient has trouble breathing because cancer has spread to the lungs. In this case, chemotherapy may be given to reduce the size of the tumor before surgery in order to save as much healthy tissue as possible. Radiation therapy is given after surgery.

See Drugs Approved for Wilms Tumor and Other Childhood Kidney Cancers for more information.

Biologic therapy

Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy.

Interferon and interleukin-2 (IL-2) are types of biologic therapy used to treat childhood renal cell cancer. Interferon affects the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth. IL-2 boosts the growth and activity of many immune cells, especially lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Lymphocytes can attack and kill cancer cells.

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant is a method of giving high doses of chemotherapy and replacing blood -forming cells destroyed by the cancer treatment. Stem cells (immature blood cells) are removed from the blood or bone marrow of the patient or a donor and are frozen and stored. After the chemotherapy is completed, the stored stem cells are thawed and given back to the patient through an infusion. These re-infused stem cells grow into (and restore) the body's blood cells.

High-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant may be used to treat recurrent Wilms tumor.

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

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