Avelumab Treatment for Kidney Cancer

Avelumab treatment for kidney cancer, particularly for advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC), marks a significant advancement in cancer therapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved avelumab in 2019, particularly for use in combination with axitinib, as a first-line treatment for patients with advanced RCC. Avelumab is an immunotherapy drug that has shown considerable promise in enhancing treatment outcomes, especially when used alongside other treatments.

Avelumab functions as an immune checkpoint inhibitor and is a type of monoclonal antibody. It targets the programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), a mechanism cancer cells often exploit to evade immune system detection. By binding to PD-L1, avelumab enables immune cells, notably T-cells, to more effectively recognize and combat cancer cells.

The indication for avelumab, particularly in combination with axitinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is for the first-line treatment of advanced RCC. This combination is specifically chosen for patients who have not previously received systemic therapy for their advanced condition.

Avelumab is administered intravenously in a medical setting. When used for RCC, it is typically combined with oral axitinib, with dosage and schedule tailored to the patient's specific condition and treatment response.

The efficacy of avelumab, corroborated by clinical trials, led to its FDA approval. The trials demonstrated that avelumab combined with axitinib significantly improved progression-free survival compared to sunitinib, a standard treatment for advanced RCC. This combination therapy has resulted in higher response rates and delayed disease progression in patients.

However, avelumab treatment can have side effects, including fatigue, diarrhea, rash, musculoskeletal pain, and immune-related adverse effects (irAEs) like colitis, hepatitis, pneumonitis, and endocrinopathies. Managing these side effects involves close monitoring, potential dose adjustments, and possibly the use of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs for severe irAEs. Patients receiving avelumab require regular assessments to manage side effects and evaluate treatment effectiveness, necessitating a comprehensive care approach involving oncologists, nurses, and other specialists.

Avelumab treatment for kidney cancer, particularly in combination with axitinib, offers a new therapeutic option for patients with advanced RCC. This combination therapy represents the dynamic evolution of cancer treatments, where combining targeted therapies with immunotherapies can significantly improve patient outcomes.


Motzer RJ, Penkov K, Haanen J, et al. Avelumab plus Axitinib versus Sunitinib for Advanced Renal-Cell Carcinoma. N Engl J Med. 2019;380(12):1103-1115.  


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