UI Hospitals and Clinics

Kidney Cancer Program

Our kidney cancer team works together to offer some of the most advanced procedures and innovative therapies in the country. Our clinical trial portfolio rivals those of much larger cancer centers and we offer unique treatments and therapies.

At University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, our highly experienced physicians and staff are dedicated to taking care of you, not just your cancer. As part of a nationally recognized cancer center, our team focuses on every aspect of kidney cancer, including what your life will be like when your treatment is complete. Our clinicians are also top researchers, finding new and innovative treatments and therapies, as well as what it takes to get you back to your life. We are always searching for ways to make the best cancer treatments even better.

Services that set us apart

  • Experts focused on kidney cancer. Our team of specialists focuses only on cancers of the urinary system and a large number of our patients are kidney cancer patients. Because our specialists concentrate only on urological cancers, they understand the disease and know about the most recent treatment option—from innovative surgeries to chemotherapy to radiation therapy to immunotherapy.In fact most of our urologists have completed additional training in urologic oncology.
  • Robotic and standard surgical options. Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa offers unique surgical procedures for kidney cancer patients. Urologists with Holden are one of a handful in the country to offer robotic IVC thrombectomy which avoids a large incision so patients recover quicker with less pain. They also are one of the centers offering off-clamp robotic partial nephrectomy for complex renal masses.
  • Quality of life expertise. We understand that as a kidney cancer patient, you may have side effects from treatments that can change the quality of your life. We have been studying these challenges and offer solutions.
  • Innovative clinical trials. Our clinical trial portfolio is one of the largest in the midwest. We not only offer access to the most recent treatment methods and therapies, but our physicians are also kidney cancer researchers, placing them at the forefront of the latest breakthroughs.
  • New infusion suite just for you. Our infusion suite was designed with patient input to create a comfortable, welcoming environment. Take our virtual

Our Approach

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only institution in Iowa—and one of only 45 nationwide—to be designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Of the approximately 1500 cancer centers and programs in the United States, NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers are rated in the top 4 percent nationally.

To be a "comprehensive" center means our medical teams have met strict guidelines in clinical, laboratory, and population-based research.

As members of an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, our doctors, nurses, and staff are among the nation’s leaders in cancer research, education, prevention, and outreach. Our experience—and our expertise—guides the cancer care we provide to patients like you.

Facts About Kidney Cancer

  • Kidney cancer is also called renal cell carcinoma.
  • Kidney cancer often has no early symptoms. Later-stage symptoms include: blood in the urine which can also be discolored such as a pink, brown or red,persistant back pain, a mass or lump in the side, weight loss, fatigue, and fever.
  • Kidney cancer usually is found in older people. The average age for a patient is 64.

Learn more about how kidney tumors are treated:


Learn about what happens in a robotic partial nephrectomy:


Clinical Trials and Research

This is an exciting time in the world of cancer research. Our physicians are knee-deep in this research, and they understand new developments to treat kidney cancer.

Since 2013, the genito-urinary cancer team has been collecting tissues, DNA and other information about many cancers of the urinary system. With more than 400 samples, researchers are able to better understand how kidney cancer works and develop new treatment options.

Clinical trials are where research meets patient care. Clinical trials are research studies that test out the latest treatments and drugs that are not yet available to the wider public. These new treatments have the potential to improve your quality of life or increase your chances of survival.

Holden offers a number of clinical trials for kidney cancer, including a study in coordination with the Big 10 Cancer Research Consortium that is looking at a combination of drugs that may help the immune system fight cancer.This is a PD1 trial, a type of immunotherapy.

See all of the clinical trials at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Support Our Mission

Our work is made possible in part by the support of donors through charitable giving. Friends of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center can become partners in our efforts to control—and ultimately cure—cancer.Learn how you can help us make a difference for cancer patients.

Kidney Cancer Care Team

We bring together experts from different areas of medicine to work together as a team called a multidisciplinary oncology group, focused on a specific cancer type, such as kidney cancer.

This team of specialists—surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, pharmacists, plastic and reconstructive surgeons, genetics counselors, nurses, and others—works together to design a treatment plan that is tailored to your cancer and your specific treatment needs.

Co-Leader: James Brown, MD (Surgeon)

Co-Leader: Daniel Vaena, MD (Medical Oncology)


Medical Oncology

Radiation Oncology



Research Nurses

  • Pam Zehr, RN
  • Jill Wegeman, RN
  • Janan Geick-Miller, RN
  • Susan Butcher, RN
  • Michelle Arnold, RN
  • Mary Schall, RN