Kidney Tumor Treatment Options


CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery For Kidney Tumors

Kidney Tumor radiation treatment at Spokane CyberKnifeThe CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2001 to treat tumors anywhere in the body, including the kidney. Despite its name, the CyberKnife System is not a surgical procedure. In fact, there is no cutting involved. Instead, the CyberKnife System delivers high doses of pin-point radiation directly to kidney tumors. The CyberKnife System offers patients who cannot undergo kidney cancer surgery due to their poor medical condition, or who refuse surgery, a minimally invasive alternative treatment for kidney cancer. Spokane CyberKnife kidney cancer treatments are performed on an outpatient basis and completed in only one to five sessions. Most patients experience minimal to no side effects with a quick recovery time.

Treating Kidney Cancer With CyberKnife

Treating kidney cancer with radiation therapy is a challenge because kidney tumors move with respiration. In addition, the tissue surrounding kidney tumors is very sensitive and can be damaged easily. The CyberKnife Radiosurgery System can deliver very high doses of radiation to both primary and metastatic kidney tumors with extreme accuracy. Working in conjunction with the CyberKnife System is the Synchrony® Respiratory Tracking System, which enables the radiation beam to track tumor movement in real time and allows patients to breathe normally during their treatment sessions. With the CyberKnife System, doctors can zero in on a moving target – the kidney tumor – and irradiate it without harming the healthy surrounding tissue. As a result, the CyberKnife treatment is more comfortable for patients, radiation is delivered more accurately and treatments can be completed in one to five sessions.

Once the team is in place, the patient will begin preparation for CyberKnife treatment.

Fiducial Placement

The patient is scheduled for a short outpatient procedure in which three to six fiducials – tiny gold seeds each about the size of a grain of rice – are inserted into and around the liver tumor using CT guidance, ultrasound, or via a camera that is passed through the mouth into the stomach and small intestine. The CyberKnife System uses those fiducial markers as reference points to identify the exact location of the tumor during treatment. Once fiducials are implanted, the patient must wait approximately one week before CyberKnife treatment planning can begin to ensure that fiducial movement has stabilized.

Set-Up and Imaging

During set-up and imaging, the patient will be fitted for a custom body cradle, which is designed to help keep him or her more comfortable and ensures consistent positioning for both imaging and treatment. The patient also will be fitted with a special Synchrony vest, which is worn during CyberKnife treatment and enables the robot to correlate chest motion and breathing patterns with the tumor position. The data generated with the vest allows the CyberKnife robot to precisely follow the tumor’s motion as it delivers each beam of radiation, ensuring safe and accurate radiation delivery.

While wearing the vest and positioned in the cradle, the patient then will undergo a series of CT imaging studies, which will enable the CyberKnife team to determine the exact size, shape, and location of the tumor. An MRI or PET-CT scan also may be necessary to fully visualize the tumor, liver, and nearby anatomy. Once the imaging is done, the Synchrony vest and body cradle will be stored for use during CyberKnife treatment.

Treatment Planning

Next, a treatment plan will be specifically designed by our medical physicist in conjunction with our Radiation Oncologists. The patient does not need to be present at this time. During treatment planning, the imaging data is downloaded into the CyberKnife System’s software. The medical team determines the size of the area being targeted by radiation and the radiation dosage, as well as identifying critical structures where radiation should be minimized. Each patient’s unique treatment plan will take full advantage of the CyberKnife System’s extreme maneuverability, allowing for a safe and accurate liver cancer treatment.

After a treatment plan is developed, the patient returns to the CyberKnife center for treatment. Our Cancer Experts may choose to deliver the kidney cancer treatment in one session or stage it for up to 5 sessions. Kidney cancer treatments are typically completed within one week.

CyberKnife Treatment

  • For most patients, the CyberKnife treatment is a completely pain-free experience. Patients dress comfortably in their own clothes and, depending on the treatment center, they may be allowed to bring music to listen to during the treatment. Patients also may want to bring something to read while they wait and have a friend or family member with them to provide support before and after treatment.
  • When it is time for treatment, the patient will be asked to put on their Synchrony vest and lie on their custom body cradle. The radiation therapist will ensure the vest is properly adjusted and that the patient is positioned correctly on the treatment couch.
  • As treatment begins, the location of the kidney tumor will be tracked and detected continually as the patient breathes normally. The medical team will be watching every step of the way as the CyberKnife System tracks the patient’s liver tumor as it moves, and safely and precisely delivers radiation to it.
  • The CyberKnife System’s computer-controlled robot will move around the patient’s body to various locations from which it will deliver radiation. At each position, the robot will stop. Then, special software will determine precisely where the radiation should be delivered by correlating the location of the tumor using digital images of the fiducials and information from the Synchrony vest. The CyberKnife’s robotic arm will adjust the radiation source automatically, to follow the kidney tumor as it moves. Nothing will be required of the patient during treatment, except to relax and lie still.


Once treatment is complete, most patients quickly return to their daily routines with little interruption to their normal activities. If treatment is being delivered in stages, the patient will need to return for additional treatments over the next several days as determined by their doctors. After CyberKnife treatments, most patients experience minimal side effects, which typically go away within the first week or two after treatment. Our doctors will discuss all possible side effects prior to treatment. In addition, our doctors may prescribe medication to control any side effects, should they occur.

Follow Up

After completing CyberKnife radiosurgery treatment, it is important for the patient to schedule and attend any follow-up appointments. The patient should be aware that his or her tumor will not suddenly disappear. Response to kidney cancer treatment varies from patient to patient. It could take up to several months or longer to determine the effectiveness of the CyberKnife treatment. Doctors will monitor the outcome in the months and years following a patient’s treatment through physical exams, blood tests, and imaging techniques, such as CT or PET-CT scans.