Two small studies reported on patients whose kidney cancer had spread into the brain at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Genitourinary (GU) Cancers Symposium held in San Francisco last weekend.

The first study was a real-world report of 17 patients with advanced kidney cancer in the brain. The patients were treated with ipilimumab and nivolumab combination immunotherapy. For a lot of people, the treatment wasn’t successful. However, some people benefited from combination immunotherapy treatment. Forty-two percent (42%) of people had shrinkage of their tumour (though no-one saw cancers disappear completely) and another 29% had stable disease where their cancer stopped growing. Only about 20% of people did not respond to treatment and their cancer continued to grow. The amount of treatment, and the amount of side-effects was similar to that seen in other clinical trials with the combination immunotherapy treatment. Of note, 50% (3/6) patients treated with this combination after failing to respond to another treatment had tumour shrinkage.

The second study looked at two drugs called avelumab and axitinib (JAVELIN Renal 101 trial; an immunotherapy and TKI). Some people on this trial had kidney cancer that had spread to the brain, and the combination of drugs may have helped people more than taking a TKI tablet (sunitinib) alone.

People with kidney cancer that has spread to the brain still face a very tough path, but these very small reports give some hope that new treatments might help in this very difficult situation.

Read more about the immunotherapy trial on Renal and Urology News here