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Renal Cell Carcinoma

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If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, you may be trying to learn as much as possible about the disease and its treatments. Read on to find out more.

The information on this website should be discussed with your healthcare professional and does not replace their advice.

What is renal cell carcinoma?

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer that starts in the kidneys. About 9 out of 10 kidney cancers are renal cell carcinoma. Renal cell carcinoma starts in the lining of the tiny tubes in the kidneys.

Kidney cancer is more common in men than in women.

People have two kidneys positioned near the middle of the back. The kidneys clean waste from the blood and make urine (pee).

Treatment with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

Your doctor will plan your treatment according to your individual circumstances. These include your stage of cancer, certain blood tests and your general health.

KEYTRUDA is an immunotherapy that may be used to treat renal cell carcinoma in combination with targeted therapy as your first treatment when your cancer has spread or cannot be removed by surgery.

KEYTRUDA may also be used alone to treat renal cell carcinoma if you are at intermediate-high or high risk of your cancer coming back after surgery to:

  • Remove all or part of your kidney; or
  • Remove all or part of your kidney and cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic lesions).

Talk to your doctor to see if KEYTRUDA may be right for you.

KEYTRUDA is not funded in New Zealand for the treatment of patients with renal cell carcinoma.


Expand for more information on terms and definitions related to renal cell carcinoma.

Terms you may find useful:

Active surveillance
Your kidney cancer is monitored regularly. No treatment is given unless it is needed in the future.

The most common type of cancer. It is formed by epithelial cells. These cells cover the inside and outside of our body – for example, the lining of tiny tubes in the kidneys.

Higher than normal levels of calcium in the blood.

Surgery to remove part of a kidney or an entire kidney.

A doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating kidney disease.

A doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating urinary system diseases. Can perform surgery.

A doctor who specialises in treating cancer with drug therapies – for example, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

The expected outcome of your cancer. Your doctor is the best person to ask about your prognosis, but it is not possible for anyone to predict the exact course of cancer.

A new or abnormal growth of tissue on or in the body. Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Urinary system
Organs that remove waste from the blood and then from the body as urine.

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Questions to ask your doctor

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Patient Resources


Cancer Council Australia. 2022. Understanding Kidney Cancer. A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends.
Available at:
Accessed on 04/10/2023


KEYTRUDA Consumer Medicine Information

National Cancer Institute. 2021, What is Cancer?
Available at:
Accessed on 01/09/2023

NZ-KEY-00880. TAPS DA 2339KN TAPS NP20132. First Issued February 2024.