2020 marks the Kidney Cancer Association’s 30th anniversary! Founded in 1990 by a small but committed group of patients and doctors in Chicago, we’re celebrating huge milestones and advances in research, in kidney cancer care and treatment, and in advocacy.
Over the past 30 years, the KCA has been a part of groundbreaking medical research, patient support, and community involvement. Scroll through our major achievements and milestones.
In 1989, Eugene P. Schonfeld was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. At the time, aside from surgery, there were no treatments for kidney cancer and a diagnosis meant facing a limited future.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang, an oncologist at the University of Chicago who had developed a reputation for treating kidney cancer patients, had been hosting supportive gatherings of kidney cancer patients, families, and healthcare professionals locally in and around Chicago.
Schonfeld, Vogelzang, and others formed what would become the Kidney Cancer Association in 1990. It was the first group – and remained the only such group until the mid-2000s – to focus on renal cancer and bring together key stakeholders for the express purpose of moving the needle in kidney cancer care and research in the hope of better lives for those with the disease.
Over the next several years, Schonfeld would travel around Illinois, and eventually to other parts of the US, as the number of kidney cancer support groups grew in strength and activity.
In the early 1990s, Schonfeld spoke often before Congress, Senate, health panels, and other groups about struggles people with kidney cancer faced.
His pioneering advocacy brought attention to a variety of issues beyond the scope of his own disease. These issues included high medical costs and bureaucracy in the US healthcare system. He was particularly forceful in describing the lack of treatment options for kidney cancer and the significant harm that delays in new treatment approvals can cause patients.
When interleukin-2 was shown to have an effect on kidney cancer, Schonfeld pushed the FDA relentlessly to approve IL-2 for kidney cancer.
Thanks, in part, to his efforts, the FDA approved IL-2 in 1992, the first-ever approved treatment for kidney cancer. Later, in 2005, the FDA approved sorafenib, the first oral chemotherapy for kidney cancer.
Following Schonfeld, multiple groups also emerged over time that raised awareness about kidney cancer, advocated for increased research funding, and offered support and information, strengthening the collective voice of those impacted by the disease.
The combined efforts that led to this increased awareness and funding set the stage for major advances in the scientific understanding of kidney cancer and a subsequent cascade of new drug approvals through the late 2010s.
Today, kidney cancer has over a dozen approved treatments for kidney cancer. Clinical trials of new treatments and new combination therapies expand kidney cancer patients’ options even wider.
Ultimately, after several recurrences, Schonfeld died of metastatic renal cell carcinoma in 1997. During his life, Schonfeld fought hard for scientific and medical advances, was an advocacy pioneer, and helped change the landscape for people impacted by kidney cancer.
There is still more to be done, but Schonfeld’s efforts to learn about his own disease, gather the best minds to work together to find solutions, and encourage those affected by kidney cancer to support one another continue through the Association.
There are lots of memorable moments over the course of a kidney cancer journey. Do you have a video of one of yours? We’d love to see it! We’re looking for home videos and photos to help us celebrate the KCA’s 30th Anniversary. These may appear on our blog, social media, or in a special 30th anniversary video. If you have questions or would like to share, reach out to us at [email protected].
By donating to the KCA’s Patient Assistance Fund, you can help reduce the financial distress that patients and their families face during their cancer journey. Thank you for your support!