Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

September 18, 2014

Kidney cancer survivor joins Mayo experts to share the changing treatment of kidney cancer

By Robert Nellis

Cynthia Chauhan joins Winston Tan, M.D., and Al Copland, Ph.D., both from the Mayo Clinic in Florida, for our second blog post in a lengthy series about kidney cancer. Cynthia is a Mayo Clinic patient who is a kidney and breast cancer survivor, leader of a kidney cancer survivor group, and patient advocate. Cynthia would like to share her thoughts on clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), the most common form of kidney cancer and the diagnosis that she received over 16 years ago.

Chauhan: ccRCC is an aggressive cancer which, with the exception of high dose IL2, a difficult treatment with efficacy in only seven percent of ccRCC patients, is only treatable not curable when it metastasizes. When kidney cancer kills, we not only lose a person, a family loses a loved one and society loses a productive member. While there are seven drug therapies that have some treatment effect in ccRCC, patients develop resistance to all of them and they all have serious adverse side effects. Because ccRCC is a complex cancer, it is important to continue to search for better, novel treatment approaches and to hold the hope of curative therapies.

Tan and Copland: We have just published two exciting articles. In the article in Oncotargets we describe 31 genes overexpressed in patient ccRCC that promote tumor growth. We further show that many of these genes promote metastasis for which ccRCC is well-known. In another article published in Cancer Research, we describe a brand new gene never described before as playing a role in cancer. This gene, NPTX2, is a brain gene and is the most associated gene with ccRCC. It is overexpressed in every ccRCC patient tissue examined. Blocking this gene blocks tumor growth and metastasis. This is a secreted protein for which we are developing compounds to block its action. We believe that this new molecular target will be important to inhibit in patients with metastatic ccRCC and may lead to increased patient survival.

Chauhan: This discovery is exciting and important to patients because it opens the way for new therapeutic interventions and increases our understanding of how kidney cancer develops and metastasizes. It also underscores the importance of funding basic cancer research. It is through basic cancer research that scientists working in laboratories with cell lines and preclinical models where new understanding such as this discovery happens, opening the door to the development of new treatments and leading us closer to the potential for curative interventions.

Tan and Copland: Earlier this year, Mayo President and CEO John Noseworthy, M.D., spoke on national television, urging lawmakers to “fund the NIH.” In recent weeks, Dr. Francis Collins, head of the NIH, has been traveling the country urging support for more research dollars. Our research program is just one of many at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere that clearly shows the need for more government support for medical research. Over 80 percent of medical research funding in America comes from the federal government. We agree with Drs. Noseworthy and Collins. Future treatments and potential cures hang in the balance.

Tags: Al Copland, genetics, Innovations, kidney cancer, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Progress Updates, tumor, Winston Tan

Nice job, Cynthia. More at video, very important message!


Would like to ask a question: my husband was on Opdivo for about 1 year for RCC, He started getting back pain towards the end of his treatment. He has been seen at Mayo and scheduled to begin a clinical trial next month. Since coming off the chemo the back pain has continued to increase ( our physician said the Opdivo was probably the cause of the pain) My question is how long do the side effects of Opdivio remain after stopping the medication?

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