Topical Intrarenal Chemotherapy for Urothelial Cancer

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is utilizing an innovative new way to treat an upper urinary tract cancer known as urothelial carcinoma.

Urothelial carcinoma can affect the inner lining of the kidney, ureter, bladder, prostate or urethra. The organs of the upper urinary tract share the same kind of cells as the bladder, known as transitional cells or urothelial cells. These cells are the site of origin of upper urinary tract cancer, also known as renal pelvic or ureteral cancer. In the lower urinary tract it is commonly known as bladder cancer.

About Topical Intrarenal Chemotherapy and how it works:

Topical Intrarenal Chemotherapy is considered an adjuvant treatment (i.e. a second-step therapy after tumor removal or ablation). It is administered into the kidney via a catheter after a urologist uses a laser to ablate the tumor where it is located in the renal pelvis or ureter. A variety of FDA-approved chemotherapeutic agents are used topically rather than infused into the patient’s veins.

The procedure is done on an outpatient basis. It does not require anesthesia and typically takes about two hours for administration.

During topical treatment, the patient has to switch positions every 15 to 20 minutes so that the chemotherapy thoroughly coats the inside of the kidney. The chemotherapeutic agent targets the cancerous urothelial cells while sparing the rest of the kidney. Side effects are reduced compared to intravenous chemotherapy which affects the whole body.

Benefits of Topical Intrarenal Chemotherapy

This adjuvant therapy can reduce tumor recurrence rates by 75 percent, according to Karmanos experts.

The new intrarenal chemotherapy method is a good second step as compared to previous treatment methods, which are more invasive and may entail multiple organ removal to eliminate the tumor, including the kidney, ureter and portions of the bladder (also known as nephroureterectomy).

Insurance Coverage

Most insurance companies cover catheter use and the administration of chemotherapeutic agents. Please contact your health insurance provider to ensure coverage.

More Information

For more information about Topical Intrarenal Chemotherapy or other cancer services, call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266).