(BPT) – Imagine the devastation of learning you have cancer, and then imagine being told it has advanced and already spread to other areas of your body.
This is a shocking reality for one-third of the 65,000 people diagnosed in the United States each year with renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common type of kidney cancer. Symptoms of the disease are often silent in its early stages, making early detection difficult and leaving many to fight advanced disease.
The kidney cancer community is calling for increased awareness about RCC in general and education about how advanced RCC progresses in particular to help improve care and outcomes for those living with this rare but deadly cancer.
“Unfortunately, awareness of advanced renal cell carcinoma is still low and even those diagnosed with the disease may be hesitant to learn more as the information they find can be frightening,” says Bill Bro, renal cell carcinoma survivor and chief executive officer and patient coordinator at the Kidney Cancer Association. “However, it is important for people living with advanced renal cell carcinoma to understand their disease so that they can take an active role in their care and decision making. I urge all patients to get more informed about RCC and their treatment choices so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their family.”
Advanced RCC tumors grow and evolve in different ways, but scientists know of certain molecular pathways that play a key role in the progression of the disease and can be targeted to help disrupt or delay the tumor’s growth. Two known key pathways that enable advanced RCC tumors to grow are the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) pathway and the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway.
The VEGF pathway is primarily responsible for the blood supply, which carries nutrients to the tumor, whereas the mTOR pathway is primarily involved in the tumor’s ability of cells to grow and multiply, as well as the blood supply and metabolism. Targeted therapies block or inhibit these key pathways involved in RCC, and are important treatments to consider along with surgery, radiation, cytokine and chemotherapy. These treatment options may be used at different stages of the disease before a targeted approach, with the goal of temporarily stopping or slowing the growth of the tumor.
“Advanced RCC tumors evolve and progress in different ways so they can be challenging to treat, particularly once the disease has advanced,” says Dr. Marijo Bilusic, assistant professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “Physicians will often try different treatments at different points along the way, and it is important that patients understand how each of these options work so they can make informed decisions with their physician about their individual disease management plan.”