Although the National Cancer Institute on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus bears the bulk of research dollars for new discoveries and treatments, other campus institutes engage in cancer research and support. Researchers from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) are conducting a new study investigating novel immunotherapy treatments for metastatic kidney cancer.

Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year. With more than a 70% five-year survival rate, kidney cancer typically responds to traditional therapies like surgery and radiation. However, once the disease metastasizes to other parts of the body, the prognosis gets worse.

Currently, approved immunotherapies work in less than 20% of patients with metastatic kidney cancer. However, according to NHLBI, “Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have developed a novel immunotherapy approach to treat clear-cell kidney cancer by targeting a protein found only in the cancer cells and are now testing the approach in a clinical trial.”

Researchers used theories about a piece of viral DNA found in humans that’s only active in kidney cancer cells to advance their ideas about treating metastatic kidney cancer with immunotherapies. Using transplanted T cells and the patient’s own immune system, scientists identified ways to genetically modify a patient’s own T cells to recognize kidney cancer cells.

The trial is currently underway and actively recruiting 24 adults with clear-cell kidney cancer who have yet to respond to immunotherapies or kinase inhibitors.