Renal Transitional Cell Carcinoma Medication

Updated: Jun 13, 2022
  • Author: Bagi RP Jana, MD, MBA, MHA, FACP; Chief Editor: E Jason Abel, MD  more...
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Medication Summary

The goals of pharmacotherapy are to induce remission, reduce morbidity, and prevent complications. The combination of methotrexate, vinblastine, doxorubicin (Adriamycin), and cisplatin (MVAC) is the best-studied chemotherapy regimen for upper urinary tract transitional cell carcinoma (TCC). Durable, complete responses were obtained in only 5-10% of patients. Serious complications were encountered in 41% of patients; treatment-related mortality was 2-4%.

Gemcitabine-based combinations (gemcitabine + cisplatin or carboplatin) have activity similar to MVAC in bladder cancer but are associated with less toxicity. Some studies found the combination of gemcitabine and paclitaxel to be as effective as cisplatin-based therapies, with less nephrotoxicity.

Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy (ie, atezolizumab, nivolumab) is the newest option for treatment of locally advanced or metastatic disease.


Antineoplastics, Other

Class Summary

Antineoplastic agents inhibit cell growth and proliferation.


Methotrexate inhibits dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), causing a block in the reduction of dihydrofolate to tetrahydrofolate. This inhibits the formation of thymidylate and purines and arrests DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis.


A vinca alkaloid with cytotoxic effect via mitotic arrest, vinblastine binds to a specific site on tubulin, prevents polymerization of tubulin dimers, and inhibits microtubule formation. Intrathecal (IT) administration may result in death.

Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)

Doxorubicin is an anthracycline antibiotic that causes DNA strand breakage through effects on topoisomerase II and direct intercalation into DNA, which causes DNA polymerase inhibition. This drug is both mutagenic and carcinogenic.


Cisplatin is a platinum-containing compound that exerts an antineoplastic effect by covalently binding to DNA, with preferential binding to N-7 position of guanine and adenosine. It can react with 2 different sites on DNA to produce cross-links. The platinum complex also can bind to nucleus and cytoplasmic protein.

Gemcitabine (Gemzar)

Gemcitabine is a cytidine analog. After intracellular metabolism to its active nucleotide, it inhibits ribonucleotide reductase and competes with deoxycytidine triphosphate for incorporation into DNA.


Carboplatin is an analog of cisplatin. This is a heavy metal coordination complex that exerts its cytotoxic effect by platination of DNA, a mechanism analogous to alkylation, leading to interstrand and intrastrand DNA cross-links and inhibition of DNA replication. It binds to protein and other compounds containing an SH group. Cytotoxicity can occur at any stage of the cell cycle, but the cell is most vulnerable to the action of these drugs in the G1 and S phase. Carboplatin has the same efficacy as cisplatin but with a better toxicity profile. The main advantages over cisplatin include less nephrotoxicity and ototoxicity (not requiring extensive prehydration) and a lower likelihood of inducing nausea and vomiting; however, it is more likely to induce myelotoxicity.


PD-1/PD-L1 Inhibitors

Class Summary

Programmed death ligand 1 (PDL1)  is expressed on the surface of activated T cells under normal conditions. Binding PDL1 inhibits immune activation and reduces T-cell cytotoxic activity when bound.


Indicated for locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma in patients who have disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy, or disease progression within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with platinum-containing chemotherapy.

Nivolumab (Opdivo)

Indicated for treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma who have disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy or have disease progression within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with a platinum-containing chemotherapy.


FGFR Inhibitors

Class Summary

Fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibitor; FGFRs are a family of receptor tyrosine kinases. Inhibition of FGFR phosphorylation and signaling decreases cell viability in cell lines expressing FGFR genetic alterations, including point mutations, amplifications, and fusions.


Indicated for locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma that has fibroblast growth factor receptor-2 (FGFR2) or FGFR3 genetic alterations and progressed during or following at least 1 line of prior platinum-containing chemotherapy, including within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant platinum-containing chemotherapy.