A Snapshot of Kidney Cancer
Incidence and Mortality
Kidney cancer incidence increased from 1997 to 2008 before leveling off. The increase in incidence since the late 1990s reflects a rapid increase in early-stage disease that has been attributed in part to incidental diagnosis during abdominal imaging and may not represent a true increase in cancer occurrence. The overall mortality rate has fallen an average of 0.6 percent each year since 2001. Kidney cancer incidence and mortality rates are twice as high in men as in women. American Indians/Alaska Natives have higher kidney cancer incidence and mortality rates than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
The main risk factors for kidney cancer are smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and having certain inherited conditions. There are no recommended tests to screen for kidney cancer in people who are not at average risk of this disease. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are used to look for kidney cancer in people with an inherited condition that places them at high risk. Standard treatments for kidney cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy.
Assuming that incidence and survival rates follow recent trends, it is estimated that $4.8 billion1 will be spent on kidney cancer care in the United States in 2014.
Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Kidney Cancer
- The Urologic Oncology Branch is conducting basic and clinical research on the detection, prevention, and treatment of genitourinary cancers, including kidney cancer. One focus of the branch is to understand the molecular pathways of the kidney cancer disease genes in order to develop novel approaches to therapy.
- NCI’s Genitourinary Malignancies Center of Excellence encourages collaboration between investigators studying genitourinary cancers within and outside of the NCI, promotes opportunities for research, facilitates the use of research tools and resources, and trains young investigators.
- Researchers with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) program are systematically identifying the major genomic changes involved in more than 20 cancers, including three types of kidney cancer, using state-of-the-art genomic technologies. In addition, the TCGA Pan-Cancer analysis project is comparing mutations across tumor types to identify genomic similarities; such similarities could raise the prospect that similar treatments could be useful for multiple cancer types. [PubMed Abstract]
- The randomized phase III trial Pazopanib Hydrochloride in Treating Patients with Metastatic Kidney Cancer Who Have No Evidence of Disease After Surgery is investigating whether the angiogenesis inhibitor pazopanib hydrochloride prolongs disease-free survival compared with placebo in patients with metastatic kidney cancer who have no evidence of disease after surgery.
- The phase I trial Recombinant Interleukin-15 in Treating Patients with Advanced Melanoma, Kidney Cancer, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, or Squamous Cell Head and Neck Cancer is examining the side effects and best dose of the angiogenesis inhibitor recombinant interleukin-15 in treating patients with several types of cancer, including kidney cancer.
- The Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in kidney cancer supports research focused on identifying biomarkers for the early detection of kidney cancer, monitoring of groups at high risk of the disease, and predicting treatment outcomes; developing novel immune and targeted treatments; and improving the understanding and treatment of kidney cancer that is resistant to standard therapies.
Selected Advances in Kidney Cancer Research
- A comprehensive molecular characterization of more than 400 clear cell renal cell carcinoma tumors identified 19 genes with extensive mutations, some of which changed cell metabolism and correlated with poor survival, suggesting new opportunities for therapeutic targets. Published June 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- A quantitative proteomics analysis of human renal cell carcinoma cell lines that mimic the cellular features of more and less advanced tumors identified several proteins that are expressed at different levels. Future molecular studies will explore novel hypotheses that stem from this work. Published August 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- Hypoxia causes the protein SPOP to move from the nucleus to the cytoplasm in clear cell renal cell carcinoma cell lines, which promotes tumorigenesis; targeted loss of the relocated SPOP in these cells triggers apoptosis, suggesting that SPOP may be a promising therapeutic target. Published March 2014. [PubMed Abstract]
- A metabolic analysis of 20 primary human clear cell renal cell carcinomas revealed that a protein involved in gluconeogenesis, FBP1, is a uniformly depleted tumor suppressor in clear cell renal cell carcinomas. Published July 2014. [PubMed Abstract]
Trends in NCI Funding for Kidney Cancer Research
NCI’s investment2 in kidney cancer research was $45.6 million in fiscal year (FY) 2013. In addition to the funding described in the graph, NCI supported $7.6 million in FYs 2009 and 2010 in kidney cancer research using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Additional Resources for Kidney Cancer
- What You Need To Know About™ Kidney Cancer
Describes possible risks, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for someone recently diagnosed with kidney cancer.
- Kidney Cancer Home Page
NCI's gateway for information about kidney cancer.
- Renal Cell Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of renal cell cancer.
- Wilms Tumor and Other Childhood Kidney Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of Wilms tumor.
- Transitional Cell Cancer of the Renal Pelvis and Ureter Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of renal pelvis and ureter transitional cell cancer.
- Clinical Trials for Kidney Cancer
- Clinical Trials for Wilms Tumor
- Clinical Trials for Transitional Cell Cancer
- 1 Cancer Prevalence and Cost of Care Projections, in 2010 dollars.
- 2 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.