Genes Make the Cancer Difference

Kidney cancer subtypes identified that could impact disease treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Scientists are continuing to discover that the location of a cancer isn’t the whole story. The genetic make-up of the tumors makes a huge difference in how the cancer behaves and how it can be treated.

After 10 years of research, medical scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles have described new subtypes of kidney cancer.

The researchers have discovered that these distinct subtypes progress differently based on the presence or absence of various molecules.

These findings could change the way kidney cancer is treated.

"Discuss genetic testing with your oncologist."

Allan Pantuck, MD, professor of urology and director of genitourinary oncology at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, directed this research that has involved studying thousands of kidney tumors.

The authors report that examining the appearance of the tumor under a microscope has been the traditional way of evaluating and predicting the expected course of the cancer. Pathologists conduct this analysis.

"Pathologists can give us some important information, but similar appearing tumors often can and do behave differently," Dr. Pantuck said in a prepared statement. "Our findings have us heading further in the direction of personalized medicine based on the molecular signature of an individual's tumor."

During this investigation, the researchers were studying clear cell renal carcinoma. They found differences in the disease were based on certain chromosomes.

The new subtypes were characterized by deletions in parts of chromosomes 3, 14, 3p and 14q. These changes, the researchers learned, affect how the cancers grow and spread.

Patients, whose tumors were removed and studied, were followed for a median of about 40 months.

The study revealed that any loss of 3p was associated with improved survival, while the loss of 14q was linked to worse survival.

Patients who did not have chromosome 3p but did have 14q lived longest.

The median survival time for individuals who did not have 3p but did have 14q was more than 10 years, compared to 50 months for those who had 3p but not 14q.

The researchers concluded that knowing these genetic details can impact treatment.

"Identification of genetic signatures in tumors that otherwise appear identical affords both therapeutic and investigational opportunities,” Alexander Kutikov, MD, associate professor of urologic surgical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA, told dailyRx News.

“Likelihood of recurrence, response to surgery or to medications and eligibility for enrollment in clinical trials can now be viewed through a new, and more focused, lens. Furthermore, linking tumor behavior to specific genetic abnormalities allows for great insights into biology of these complex cancers and potentially opens doors for development of novel therapeutic agents,” said Dr. Kutikov, who was not involved with this research.

The study appears April 16 in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. No specific funding was disclosed, and no author disclosed potential conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 18, 2013
Last Updated:
December 10, 2013