Background: Advanced renal cell carcinoma has been resistant to drug therapy of different types and new types of drug therapy are needed. Targeted agents inhibit known molecular pathways involved in cellular proliferation and neoangiogenesis, the induction by the tumour of host microvascular networks. Angiogenesis is of special interest in the clear cell histologic subtype of renal cancer because of its vascularity and constitutively activated hypoxia-inducible path in the majority of tumours. Objectives: 1) To provide a systematic review of studies testing targeted agents. 2) To identify the type and degree of clinical benefit, if any, of targeted agents over the prior standard of care, particularly any impact on overall survival. Search strategy: 1) Electronic search of CENTRAL, MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. 2) Hand search of international cancer meeting abstract and other sources specified in the protocol. Selection criteria: Randomized controlled studies of targeted agents in patients with advanced renal cell cancer reporting major remission rate or overall survival by allocation. Progression-free survival (PFS) was adopted as an additional outcome because PFS was a commonly chosen primary outcome, and because several pivotal studies allowed crossover from the control to the investigational arm after closure to accrual thereby making overall survival a problematic endpoint. Data collection and analysis: Nineteen fully eligible studies tested ten different targeted agents (Table 04). One additional study was excluded because no outcome data by allocation have been reported (Hutson 2007). For purposes of comparison, the studies were divided into three groups: Group 1 studies compared different doses of the same agents; Group 2 studies examined the impact of targeted agents in patients who had received prior cytokine or other systemic therapy; and Group 3 studies tested targeted agents in systemically naive patients, either against standard interferon-alfa or against another control therapy. Meta-analysis was not utilized because there were very few situations where the same agents had been tested in the same group in more than one study. Main results: In systemically untreated patients in studies using subcutaneous interferon-alfa as control therapy, the major findings were: 1) An improvement in overall survival has been demonstrated only with the use of weekly intravenous temsirolimus in patients with unselected renal cancer histology and adverse prognostic features (median survival 10.9 months versus 7.3 months for temsirolimus or interferon-alfa respectively, HR 0.73, P = 0.008 log rank, Hudes 2007). However, the chance of major remission was low and not improved with temsirolimus. 2) In patients with mostly good or intermediate prognostic risk with clear cell renal cancer, oral sunitinib improves the chance of major remission, the probability of symptomatic improvement, and freedom from disease progression (Motzer 2007); in a similar setting, the addition of biweekly intravenous bevacizumab to interferon-alfa also improved the chance of major remission and prolonged progression-free survival (Escudier 2007b); overall survival had not changed at the time of interim reporting of either study. In patients with clear cell renal cancers who had failed prior cytokine therapy, oral sorafenib gives a better quality of life than placebo as well as improved chance of being free of disease progression; overall survival may have improved but is hard to evaluate because of crossover of placebo-assigned patients after the study closed to accrual (Escudier 2007a). Authors' conclusions: Based on less than a decade of experience, some targeted agents with specified molecular targets have demonstrated clinically useful benefits over the previous standard of care for patients with advanced renal cancer. Much more research is required to fully establish the role of targeted agents in this condition.