Skip to Content

Kidney Cancer

Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Research and Clinical Trials | Additional Patient Support

Approximately 58,000 cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in the United States annually, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The experienced, collaborative team of specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combines the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care, creating a program of personalized medicine and patient-centered care for each individual diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Drawing from the diverse experience of physicians, surgeons, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team works collaboratively and is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

The Kellogg Cancer Center offers centralized treatment and access for the breadth of services a patient diagnosed with kidney cancer may require. Kellogg's medical oncologists are among the most experienced in the Chicago area at addressing the needs of all patients with kidney cancer, particularly those with advanced stages of the disease. Research has shown that significant experience is more likely to result in better outcomes for patients. Physicians at the Kellogg Cancer Center collaborate with colleagues at the John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health when appropriate.

Kidney Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

In diagnosing kidney cancer, physicians may require a variety of tests, including blood and urine tests. Kidney cancer can often be diagnosed based on imaging tests, which may include CT and MRI scans, and ultrasound. These tests also may be used to find out if the cancer has spread or to confirm if a treatment is working.

In some cases, it is necessary to remove a tissue sample of a kidney tumor through a fine needle biopsy, which involves the insertion of a long, thin needle into the kidney. The tissue is sent to experts in NorthShore’s pathology lab. This onsite resource ensures that a majority of tests and novel diagnostics are completed in house, providing swift results physicians to determine the severity (stage) of the cancer and thus beginning treatment as early as possible.  

Personalized Kidney Cancer Treatment

Multimodal strategies combining chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are often used to treat patients with both advanced and metastatic kidney cancer. Advances in minimally invasive, robotic and image-guided ablative surgery give our patients more kidney cancer treatment options, including partial nephrectomy, total nephrectomy and ablative therapy. These techniques allow for excellent cancer control but result in less pain, blood loss and a more rapid return to normal activities. In most cases, the kidney can be preserved after treatment, which helps protect long-term kidney function.

The Kellogg Cancer Center is one of the few centers in the Chicago area to offer high-dose IL-2, a potentially curative treatment of kidney cancer. Kellogg is also involved in active surveillance of kidney tumors, particularly with frail patients or those who cannot undergo surgery. This strategy involves close monitoring of small kidney tumors with imaging techniques, and sometimes biopsy, to see if there is evidence of change before a particular treatment is recommended. 

Among the most promising developments in cancer treatment in recent years is immunotherapy. For decades, researchers have been trying to understand why the body’s immune system does not see cancer cells as foreign and attack them. Unlike chemotherapy, which attacks cancer cells, immunotherapy targets the patient’s immune system, spurring the body’s own immune function to unleash an attack on the disease. NorthShore has been an early adopter of immunotherapy, offering progressive treatment options to our patients and supporting ongoing clinical trials and research to further advance this revolutionary field.

Every week, your multidisciplinary team meets in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. For kidney cancer, your team may include your medical oncologisturological surgical oncologist (a board-certified urologist specially trained to surgically treat urological cancers), radiation oncologist, geneticist, pathologist, nutritionist, pharmacist, interventional radiologist, social worker and researchers, all focused on you. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input, resulting in an individualized care plan outlining the best course of action for each patient.

Patients are at the center of our multidisciplinary team, and Kellogg staff arrange for them to be seen by their multidisciplinary specialists at one appointment, not only for their convenience but to provide a consensus on their course of treatment. Our use of one of the most advanced Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in the country enhances our open communication and promotes collaboration in our patient care.

Research and Clinical Trials

For patients diagnosed with kidney cancer, a vital research enterprise allows Kellogg Cancer Center patients access to the latest drugs and treatment options, as well as a wide array of clinical trials, both at NorthShore and through the University of Chicago, where more than 800 of our attending physicians hold academic appointments. Kellogg Cancer Center’s experts in kidney cancer are active participants and leaders in regional and national research, academic and advocacy organizations.

Several of our clinical trials are using new chemotherapeutic drugs that have greatly improved treatment for patients with advanced stages of kidney cancer as well as using sophisticated new imaging technologies to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment and whether the cancer has spread.

Conservative management of incidentally detected small kidney masses is the focus of a clinical study at NorthShore. With improved imaging technology, we are now discovering small kidney tumors, many of which are not aggressive, that went previously undetected. The study seeks to determine the optimal strategy to manage these small kidney tumors with the goal of, whenever safely possible, sparing patients unnecessary treatment.

NorthShore’s nationally recognized Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system offers a data warehouse that enables physicians and researchers to integrate molecular and genomics data with clinical data to determine a patient’s best course of treatment. This information—specific to each patient—helps create an individually tailored treatment plan based on the patient’s genetic makeup and type of cancer. This analysis, through our Center for Biomedical Research Informatics, is yielding new insights into complex diseases and identifying opportunities to improve patient outcomes,  as well as addressing the risk factors in individual and family medical histories.

NorthShore is the first in the nation to provide our patients and their family members with Health Heritage, a secure tool that helps individuals create a complete family health history and personalized risk reports.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

For More Information

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.