Nivolumab in the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma: Clinical trial evidence and experience

Alessia Mennitto, Paolo Grassi, Raffaele Ratta, Elena Verzoni, Michele Prisciandaro, Giuseppe Procopio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is considered an immunogenic tumor with a prominent dysfunctional immune cell infiltrate, unable to control tumor growth. Cytokine-based immunotherapies, including interferon-α and interleukin-2, have been used for the treatment of metastatic RCC (mRCC). Long-term responses and complete remissions were observed, but durable clinical benefit efficacy in the overall population was limited and associated with significant toxicity. As a consequence, new generation agents targeting the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways replaced interferon alpha (IFN-α). Strategies of tumor immune evasion include T-cell suppression by negative signals deriving from the interaction between programmed death-1 (PD-1) on the T cell and its ligand (PDL-1) on the tumor cells. Nivolumab, a programmed death 1 checkpoint inhibitor, blocks this pathway, thus reversing T-cell suppression and activating antitumor responses. The aim of this review is to summarize the safety and efficacy data of nivolumab in mRCC. Objective responses and safety profile of single-agent nivolumab are favorable in both previously treated and treatment-naïve mRCC patients. Despite toxic effects, combination therapies with nivolumab have shown promising results, indicating a potential role in the treatment of mRCC. Tailoring immunotherapy on a patient-to-patient basis represents a major challenge for the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-326
Number of pages8
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Urology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2016


  • immunotherapy
  • nivolumab
  • programmed death-1
  • renal cell carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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