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Wilms Tumor and Other Childhood Kidney Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)

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Rhabdoid Tumors of the Kidney

General Information About Rhabdoid Tumors of the Kidney

Rhabdoid tumors are extremely aggressive malignancies that generally occur in infants and young children. The most common locations are the kidney (termed malignant rhabdoid tumors or MRT) and central nervous system (CNS) (atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor), although rhabdoid tumors can also arise in most soft tissue sites. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Childhood Central Nervous System Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor Treatment for information on the treatment of central nervous system disease.) Relapses occur early (median time from diagnosis is 8 months).[1,2]

A distinct clinical presentation that suggests a diagnosis of rhabdoid tumor of the kidney includes the following:[3]

  • Fever.
  • Hematuria.
  • Young age (mean age, 11 months).
  • High tumor stage at presentation.

(Refer to the Wilms tumor Clinical Features and Diagnostic and Staging Evaluation sections of this summary for more information about the clinical features and diagnostic evaluation of childhood kidney tumors.)

Approximately two-thirds of patients will present with advanced-stage disease. Bilateral cases have been reported.[1] Rhabdoid tumors of the kidney tend to metastasize to the lungs and the brain. As many as 10% to 15% of patients with rhabdoid tumors of the kidney also have CNS lesions.[4] The staging system used for rhabdoid tumor of the kidney is the same system used for Wilms tumor. (Refer to the Stage Information for Wilms Tumor section of this summary for more information.)

Histologically, the most distinctive features of rhabdoid tumors of the kidney are rather large cells with large vesicular nuclei, a prominent single nucleolus, and in some cells, the presence of globular eosinophilic cytoplasmic inclusions.

Genes Associated With Rhabdoid Tumors of the Kidney

Rhabdoid tumors in all anatomical locations have a common genetic abnormality—loss of function of the SMARCB1/INI1/SNF5/BAF47 gene located at chromosome 22q11.2. SMARCB1 encodes a component of the SWI/SNF (SWItch/Sucrose NonFermentable) chromatin remodeling complex that has an important role in controlling gene transcription.[5,6] Based on gene expression analysis in rhabdoid tumors, it is hypothesized that rhabdoid tumors arise in early progenitor cells during a critical developmental window in which loss of SMARCB1 directly results in repression of neural development, loss of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibition, and trithorax/polycomb dysregulation.[7] Identical mutations may give rise to a brain or kidney tumor.

Germline mutations of SMARCB1 have been documented for patients with one or more primary tumors of the brain and/or kidney, consistent with a genetic predisposition to the development of rhabdoid tumors.[8,9] Approximately 35% of patients with rhabdoid tumors have germline SMARCB1 alterations.[6] In most cases, the mutations are de novo and not inherited from a parent. The median age of children with rhabdoid tumors and a germline mutation or deletion is younger (5 months) than that of children with apparently sporadic disease (18 months). Germline mosaicism has been suggested for several families with multiple affected siblings. It appears that those patients with germline mutations may have the worst prognosis.[10]

Rhabdoid Predisposition Syndrome

Early-onset, multifocal disease and familial cases strongly support the possibility of a rhabdoid predisposition syndrome. This has been confirmed by the presence of germline mutations of SMARCB1 in rare familial cases and in a subset of patients with apparently sporadic rhabdoid tumors. These cases have been labeled as rhabdoid tumor predisposition syndrome, type 1. Thirty-five patients (N = 100) with rhabdoid tumors of the brain, kidney, or soft tissues were found to have a germline SMARCB1 abnormality. These abnormalities included point and frameshift mutations, intragenic deletions and duplications, and larger deletions. Nine cases demonstrated parent-to-child transmission of a mutated copy of SMARCB1. In eight of the nine cases, one or more family members were also diagnosed with rhabdoid tumor or schwannoma; and two of the eight families presented with multiple affected children, consistent with gonadal mosaicism.[6]

Two cases of inactivating mutations in the SMARCA4 gene have been found in three children from two unrelated families, establishing the phenotypically similar syndrome now known as rhabdoid tumor predisposition syndrome, type 2.[11,12] In these cases, SMARCA4 behaves as a classical tumor suppressor, with one deleterious mutation inherited in the germline and the other acquired in the tumor. Another report describes an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance discovered through an exome sequencing project.[13]

Genetic Testing and Surveillance

Germline analysis is suggested for individuals of all ages with rhabdoid tumors. Genetic counseling is also part of the treatment plan, given the low-but-actual risk of familial recurrence. In cases of mutations, parental screening should be considered, although such screening carries a low probability of positivity. Prenatal diagnosis can be performed in situations where a specific SMARCB1 mutation or deletion has been documented in the family.[6]

Recommendations for surveillance in patients with germline SMARCB1 mutations have been developed on the basis of epidemiology and clinical course of rhabdoid tumors. These recommendations were developed by a group of pediatric cancer genetic experts (including oncologists, radiologists, and geneticists). They have not been formally studied to confirm the benefit of monitoring patients with germline SMARCB1 mutations. The aggressive natural history of the disease, apparently high penetrance, and well-defined age of onset for CNS atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor suggest that surveillance could prove beneficial. Given the potential survival benefit of surgically resectable disease, it is postulated that early detection might improve overall survival (OS).[14]

  • Children younger than 1 year: It is suggested that patients have thorough physical and neurologic examinations and monthly head ultrasounds to assess for the development of a CNS tumor. It is suggested that patients undergo abdominal ultrasounds with focus on the kidneys every 2 to 3 months to assess for renal lesions.[14]
  • Children aged 1 to 4 years: From age 1 year to approximately age 4 years, after which the risk of developing a new rhabdoid tumor rapidly declines, it is suggested that brain and spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and abdominal ultrasound be performed every 3 months.[14]

Standard Treatment Options for Rhabdoid Tumor of the Kidney

Because of the relative rarity of this tumor, all patients with rhabdoid tumor of the kidney should be considered for entry into a clinical trial. Treatment planning by a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists (pediatric surgeon or pediatric urologist, pediatric radiation oncologist, and pediatric oncologist) with experience treating renal tumors is required to determine and implement optimum treatment.

Patients with rhabdoid tumors of the kidney continue to have a poor prognosis. In a review of 142 patients from the National Wilms Tumor Studies (NWTS) NWTS-1 through NWTS-5, age and stage are important prognostic factors:[4]

  • Age at diagnosis. Infants younger than 6 months at diagnosis demonstrated a 4-year OS of 9%, whereas OS in patients aged 2 years and older was 41% (highly significant).
  • Stage of disease. Patients with stage I and stage II disease had an OS rate of 42%; higher stage was associated with a 16% OS.
  • Presence of a CNS lesion. All but one patient with a CNS lesion (n = 32) died.

There is no standard treatment option for rhabdoid tumor of the kidney.[15] The Société Internationale d’Oncologie Pédiatrique (SIOP) renal tumor group has noted that preoperative chemotherapy does not seem to translate into improved survival. Delays in surgery lead to worse survival, compared with patients treated according to direct surgery strategies.[1]

The NWTS-5 (COG-Q9401/NCT00002611) trial closed the arm for rhabdoid tumor treatment with cyclophosphamide, etoposide, and carboplatin because poor outcome was observed. Combinations of etoposide and cisplatin; etoposide and ifosfamide; and ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide (ICE chemotherapy) have been used (COG-Q9401).[16,17]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with rhabdoid tumor of the kidney. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. van den Heuvel-Eibrink MM, van Tinteren H, Rehorst H, et al.: Malignant rhabdoid tumours of the kidney (MRTKs), registered on recent SIOP protocols from 1993 to 2005: a report of the SIOP renal tumour study group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 56 (5): 733-7, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Reinhard H, Reinert J, Beier R, et al.: Rhabdoid tumors in children: prognostic factors in 70 patients diagnosed in Germany. Oncol Rep 19 (3): 819-23, 2008. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Amar AM, Tomlinson G, Green DM, et al.: Clinical presentation of rhabdoid tumors of the kidney. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 23 (2): 105-8, 2001. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Tomlinson GE, Breslow NE, Dome J, et al.: Rhabdoid tumor of the kidney in the National Wilms' Tumor Study: age at diagnosis as a prognostic factor. J Clin Oncol 23 (30): 7641-5, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Imbalzano AN, Jones SN: Snf5 tumor suppressor couples chromatin remodeling, checkpoint control, and chromosomal stability. Cancer Cell 7 (4): 294-5, 2005. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Eaton KW, Tooke LS, Wainwright LM, et al.: Spectrum of SMARCB1/INI1 mutations in familial and sporadic rhabdoid tumors. Pediatr Blood Cancer 56 (1): 7-15, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  7. Gadd S, Sredni ST, Huang CC, et al.: Rhabdoid tumor: gene expression clues to pathogenesis and potential therapeutic targets. Lab Invest 90 (5): 724-38, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Biegel JA, Zhou JY, Rorke LB, et al.: Germ-line and acquired mutations of INI1 in atypical teratoid and rhabdoid tumors. Cancer Res 59 (1): 74-9, 1999. [PUBMED Abstract]
  9. Biegel JA: Molecular genetics of atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor. Neurosurg Focus 20 (1): E11, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  10. Janson K, Nedzi LA, David O, et al.: Predisposition to atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor due to an inherited INI1 mutation. Pediatr Blood Cancer 47 (3): 279-84, 2006. [PUBMED Abstract]
  11. Schneppenheim R, Frühwald MC, Gesk S, et al.: Germline nonsense mutation and somatic inactivation of SMARCA4/BRG1 in a family with rhabdoid tumor predisposition syndrome. Am J Hum Genet 86 (2): 279-84, 2010. [PUBMED Abstract]
  12. Hasselblatt M, Gesk S, Oyen F, et al.: Nonsense mutation and inactivation of SMARCA4 (BRG1) in an atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor showing retained SMARCB1 (INI1) expression. Am J Surg Pathol 35 (6): 933-5, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  13. Witkowski L, Lalonde E, Zhang J, et al.: Familial rhabdoid tumour 'avant la lettre'--from pathology review to exome sequencing and back again. J Pathol 231 (1): 35-43, 2013. [PUBMED Abstract]
  14. Teplick A, Kowalski M, Biegel JA, et al.: Educational paper: screening in cancer predisposition syndromes: guidelines for the general pediatrician. Eur J Pediatr 170 (3): 285-94, 2011. [PUBMED Abstract]
  15. Ahmed HU, Arya M, Levitt G, et al.: Part II: Treatment of primary malignant non-Wilms' renal tumours in children. Lancet Oncol 8 (9): 842-8, 2007. [PUBMED Abstract]
  16. Waldron PE, Rodgers BM, Kelly MD, et al.: Successful treatment of a patient with stage IV rhabdoid tumor of the kidney: case report and review. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 21 (1): 53-7, 1999 Jan-Feb. [PUBMED Abstract]
  17. Wagner L, Hill DA, Fuller C, et al.: Treatment of metastatic rhabdoid tumor of the kidney. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 24 (5): 385-8, 2002 Jun-Jul. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: August 15, 2014