The Three Faces of Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer grows in multiple ways

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Cancer is a survivor. It knows what to do to keep on keeping on. It hides, it morphs, it reshapes itself, it prevails. Now scientists have a better idea of how kidney cancer survives and thrives.

Scientists have discovered that kidney cancer grows in three different ways. These findings could change the way the disease is both diagnosed and treated.

One day, rather than targeting specific genes, therapies might be designed to throw a monkey wrench into the mechanism by which kidney cancer develops.

"Pay attention to changes in your body."

Nearly 65,000 Americans will have learned they have kidney cancer in 2012, and 13,500 will succumb to it. Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto, examined the behavior of kidney cancer cells. They have discovered these tumors can engage in three behaviors to stay alive and grow.

  1. The tumor makes more of its chromosomes, which are packages of DNA and proteins in the cells.
  2. In a process known as methylation, the tumor can alter the way genes turn on and off, which results in cell growth.
  3. The tumor can turn on, or activate, genes through other genes.

"Now we look at the mechanism rather than the individual change," said George Yousef, MD, PhD, a laboratory pathologist at St. Michael’s. "Regardless of the apparent differences of the tumor, the outcome will be the same. Eventually, we may be able to target treatment based on the 'mechanism' that is affected rather than the individual genes that are changed."

Dr. Yousef solved this multi-dimensional puzzle by using technology that allowed him to look at chromosomes more clearly - in a way never seen before. He combined information from all three operations – chromosome changes, gene expression and methylation – to develop this new understanding.

This research was published October 15 in the journal Cancer Research. Financial information was not publicly available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 2, 2012
Last Updated:
December 4, 2012