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Cost-Effectiveness of Immunotherapy Treatments for Renal Cell Carcinoma: A Systematic Review

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BACKGROUND: Kidney cancer exerts significant disease burden in the United States and possesses a rapidly evolving treatment landscape. The expansion of novel systemic treatment approaches and the use of immunotherapy has been accompanied by increased costs over time. However, the cost-effectiveness of immunotherapy in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) has not been fully assessed. The current study presents a systematic review of cost-effectiveness studies of immunotherapy-based treatment in the context of RCC. METHODS: A literature search utilizing PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library was undertaken to find articles related to the cost-effectiveness of immunotherapy treatment in renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The inclusion criteria for articles were as follows: English, published between 1983 and 2020 and evaluated cost-effectiveness in any of the currently approved immunotherapies for RCC. Exclusion criteria included being a review article, commentary or editorial, as well as possessing no specific cost-effectiveness evaluation or analysis relevant to the current review. RESULTS: The current review identified 23 studies, published between 2008 and 2020, across 9 different countries. The studies identified tended to focus on patients with locally advanced or metastatic RCC and examined the cost-effectiveness of immunotherapy across various lines of treatment (first-line treatment (n = 13), second-line treatment (n = 8), and first-line and beyond (n = 2). Eight studies examined the use of interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha), with some reports supporting the cost-effectiveness of these agents and an equal number of studies demonstrating the opposite, with sunitinib often demonstrating superior cost bases. The majority, fourteen studies, included the use of novel immune checkpoint inhibitors (nivolumab, ipilimumab, pembrolizumab), half of which found that checkpoint inhibitors were more cost-effective when compared to oral systemic therapies (sunitinib, everolimus, axitinib, pazopanib, and cabozantinib). DISCUSSION: Novel immune checkpoint inhibitors constituted the most frequently examined agents and were likely to be deemed cost-effective as compared to other treatments; although this often required higher willingness-to-pay (WTP) thresholds or healthcare systems that possessed more cost-constraints. These observations have clinical and health system applicability, with the ability to potentially reduce the cost of treatment for locally advanced or metastatic RCC.

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